Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia


With the launch of the blog Out of the Box, the Library’s archivists have a new venue through which they can share tales of discovery and delight found in the materials they process. More importantly, Out of the Box encourages our users to respond and engage with us as we explore Virginia’s history and culture through the words and actions of the people who have shaped the commonwealth for over 400 years. Because of this, the Virginiana articles below will gradually move over to Out of the Box, which will eventually replace this feature in its entirety. We hope you enjoy the opportunity to connect with us and our work as we continue to take our stories Out of the Box.

George W. Watkins photograph. 1929. Accession 42063. Personal papers collection, The Library of Virginia. icon

Watkins Family Papers

The Watkins family papers, ca. 1910-2000, include certificates, newspaper clippings, photographs, postcards, programs and yearbooks, documenting a prominent African American family in New Kent County, Virginia. While the bulk of the collection consists of Jones and Watkins family photographs from Richmond and New Kent County, the collection is significant due to the connection of the George W. Watkins School and a major U.S. Supreme Court ruling on school desegregation in Virginia during the twentieth century. more »

Richard Young's drawing in 1827 of his design for a reservoir proposed to be located east of the Capitol. Virginia Auditor of Public Accounts, Capitol Square Data, Records, 1776-1971 (bulk 1785-1850). Accession 40418. State Records Collection. icon

A Brief History of the Public Privy on Capitol Square

When we think of Capitol Square, it conjures up visions of Thomas Jefferson's venerable Capitol on the hill, Alexander Parris's elegant Executive Mansion, and Arthur S. Brockenbrough's public privy. Well, maybe not the latter, but to the ordinary visitor of Capitol Square in the early nineteenth century it was equally important. more »

Chesterfield County, County Court, Criminal Causes and Grand Jury Presentments, Commonwealth v. Willis and Whitehead, 1870. icon

CSI: Old Virginia: Scenes of Murder and Mayhem in the Local Government Records Collection

The beautiful maps in the Voorhees collection and those that reside in Special Collections are well known to Library of Virginia researchers. Yet thousands of rough but informative maps exist in the Library's local government records collection. Often classified as "plats," these detailed property maps were created and filed as part of county land records, chancery records, or other legal proceedings. more »


Funeral Home Records Document Richmond's Citizenry

Acquired in the late summer of 1993, the L. T. Christian Funeral Home records rested on the shelves of the fourth floor stacks as an untapped historical and genealogical resource until processing of the collection began earlier this year. The collection consists of approximately 43 cubic feet of records pertaining to the funeral and burial services provided by the still extant company for decedents from circa 1912 until 1986. Processing of the records of this premier Richmond, Virginia, funeral parlor will conclude later this summer, and an accompanying online database will allow patrons and staff to quickly locate any decedent's file in the collection. more »

Haigh Jamgochian. Papers, 1930-2006. Accession 41492. Personal Papers Collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia. icon

Spinnin' On Top of the World

Ever been on vacation and experienced weather so bad that it traps you in your hotel room? Know that feeling of a desperate urge for a change of scenery? If Richmond architect Haigh Jamgochian (1924- ) had had his way, visitors to one proposed hotel in Virginia Beach would have enjoyed a new view every hour. No, he didn't plan to organize a huge game of "musical rooms" by having guests periodically change their accommodations. Rather, he planned for the hotel buildings to revolve. The rationale was simple even if the engineering was not. The hotels, like the dock of a departing ocean liner, would themselves become a destination. Tourists would visit the area just to see these wonders, thus benefiting the entire local economy rather than just the specific hotel. more »

Copyright Richmond Times-Dispatch, used with permission. icon

A Morning Not Unlike Any Other Morning

December 7th marks a "day that will live in infamy" for one Richmond family. However, the year was not 1941, but 1955. On that day, at approximately 9:23 am, the three small children of Benjamin Dennis III and his wife Jean were upstairs in their Windsor Farms home watching Captain Kangaroo, a children's program that had debuted two months earlier. Minutes later, flames shot out the windows of their home. A U.S. Navy Banshee fighter jet had crashed outside their house, twenty-five feet from where the children were happily watching television. more »

Records of Western State Hospital, 1825-1998. Accession 41404, Case Book #1, Female Patients, Volume 287, State government records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia. icon

Murder At The Second Market

The following story was gleaned from a case book found in the Western State Hospital collection (Accession 41404). Included in this volume are approximately twenty pages of physician's entries, as well as a copy of the commitment order, a letter to the court, and several Richmond Dispatch newspaper articles relating to Mrs. Anne E. Kirby. Some of the dates and information are conflicting, but I have done my best to present the story as accurately as possible, well aware of the sometimes questionable nature of 19th century journalism and the possibility of human error within the case book entries. more »

Governor William Cabell Executive Papers, 1806 March 29 icon

Presley Neville O'Bannon And The Marine Corps Sword

The United States Marine Corps abounds with tradition and history. An important aspect of this history and tradition revolves around Presley Neville O'Bannon and the Marine Corps sword. Over two hundred years ago, O'Bannon, a Virginian born in Fauquier County, became the first American to raise the United States' flag over foreign soil. more »