Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia


Virginia Memory is part of the online presence of the Library of Virginia, the state archives and reference library at the seat of government for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Established in 1823, the Library maintains vast and varied collections of print materials, manuscripts, archival records, newspapers, photographs and ephemera, maps and atlases, rare books, and fine art that tell the history of the commonwealth and its people. Since the mid-1990s, the Library has digitized parts of the collections in an effort to make our materials more widely available to our online users.

In 2006, the Library began reviewing its online presence and came to the conclusion that our traditional Web site could no longer deliver effectively our online content; promote our many services to educators, the public, and government employees; guide users through our collections; and accommodate new and exciting digital materials created by the archivists, librarians, educators, and historians on our staff. We realized that increasingly our users would visit us virtually, rather than physically, and their expectations for their online visits would be influenced by and change according to the Web technologies available on other sites they use every day for work, research, and entertainment.

In 2007 and 2008, work began in earnest on the redesign of our agency site, as well as the creation of this offering, Virginia Memory. Virginia Memory has been designed as a gateway to the Library's digital collections, whether those items are indexed and delivered through traditional library systems, offered in online exhibitions, organized as resources for educators and students, or presented as research articles by staff who work with the collections on a daily basis.

The four primary components of Virginia Memory at launch in 2009 are as follows:
  • Digital Collections provides access to our traditional digital image collections available through our online catalog; our digital asset management tool, DigiTool; and partnership programs with the Library of Congress (Chronicling America) and the Internet Archive (Archive-It). We will highlight an older collection as a "Featured Collection," as well as newly created digital collections in "What's New?" on a regular basis.
  • Reading Room is where we post our newest type of digital content. Currently, we have three offerings, all of which are researched and written by Library staff.
    • This Day in Virginia History offers a document, image, or sound file with contextual information for each day of the year.
    • Virginia Chronology offers over 650 different events—42 of which have related digital images—that have occurred over the more than 400 years that have shaped the history of the commonwealth.
  • Exhibitions have been offered online for several years as virtual versions of physical installations at the Library of Virginia. All users, including educators and students, will find much of interest in this area. Exhibitions are also organized by topic.
  • Online Classroom is directed at students and educators with tips on incorporating primary source materials from our collections into the classroom. Lesson plans are correlated to the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL). The initial development of this educational content was made possible through a grant from the Elis Olssen Foundation and the commitment of the participants of the Educational Advisory Council, 2006-2007 (Tracy Aitken; Sharon Boyles; Helen Coalter; Elizabeth Coates; Shirley Haas; Mary Hedrick; Liz Kolbush; Sandy Riddle; Rhonda Riddick; Lara Samuels; Carolyn Schmid; Ann Spain; Laura Sussman; Priscilla Vaughn) and our interns (Stephen Roszel, Virginia Commonwealth University (spring and summer 2007);Evan Liddiard, Jr., Virginia Commonwealth University (summer and fall 2008).

The goal of Virginia Memory is to offer our varied constituencies access to a host of online materials highlighting the richness of our holdings and presented in flexible, yet integrated ways, providing users with a greater understanding of our collections. We seek to increase users' understanding and appreciation of Virginia history and culture, whether they are professional researchers, history enthusiasts, genealogists, students, or casual users, through the presentation of digital versions of our collections. New versions of Virginia Memory will be released regularly and will contain new collections and other materials, as well as enhanced or new functionality that will improve the user experience. We encourage visitors to check back often for new updates or to contact us with ideas or suggestions for our site. We hope you enjoy Virginia Memory.