Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia


Virginia Constitutions icon

Virginia Constitutions
(Online Exhibition)

The state constitution intimately affects all aspects of our daily lives. While students learn about the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and all the amendments, many people do not realize that the laws passed in their state are informed and shaped by a state constitution.

Virginia created its first state constitution in 1776. Since then, Virginia has fully revised its constitution six times, with additional adjustments along the way. Those changes are inspired by perceived social and political needs, and can result in economic opportunity to some and disadvantage to others; changes in the kind of public education our children receive, if any; and determining who may vote and who may not. A state constitution shapes our present and future, yet many are unaware of its existence.

We invite you to learn more about Virginia’s Constitutions by exploring the historical context of each document, discovering them in our digital collections, and exploring their meaning and influence on our lives.

Your Humble Petitioner: Legislative Petitions Gave Voice to Virginians icon

Your Humble Petitioner: Legislative Petitions Gave Voice to Virginians
(Online Exhibition)

On view February 7, 2022-November 19, 2022

Imagine having to explain to the House of Delegates why you want to divorce your spouse, or change your name, or take other actions that affect your life. Virginians had to do just that for nearly a century. Their stories can be found in the Library's Legislative Petitions Collection.

During the years between the American Revolution and the Civil War, Virginians submitted petitions to the General Assembly to bring local or personal issues to the attention of their legislators. The Library's collection of nearly 25,000 petitions reveals how Virginians communicated their concerns on a wide range of topics. To obtain legal permission to operate a ferry, maintain a tavern, or carry out many other activities, residents of the commonwealth were required to introduce a petition into the House of Delegates to begin the process of acceptance or rejection. The right to petition was not restricted by class, race, or sex. Your Humble Petitioner highlights petitions that involved deeply personal issues such as divorce and requests by emancipated Black people to remain in the commonwealth, offering a glimpse into the realities of 18th- and 19th-century life.

The right of citizens to petition their government is an ancient one, dating back indirectly to the Great Charter (Magna Carta) from 1215 and in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Even today, citizens of Virginia exercise their right to petition their government.

Columbia Pike: Through the Lens of Community icon

Columbia Pike: Through the Lens of Community
(Online Exhibition)

Exhibition Gallery & Lobby | August 31, 2021 - January 8, 2022

Columbia Pike: Through the Lens of Community

Columbia Pike: Through the Lens of Community, a unique exhibition of photographs at the Library of Virginia, celebrates the extraordinary cultural diversity found within a single community in Northern Virginia. Columbia Pike Documentary Project photographers, whose personal connections to the community allowed them to capture the strength, pride, resilience, elegance, and beauty of so many overlapping cultures, created the works on view. More than 70 of the thousands of photographs transferred to the Library of Virginia's collections this spring will be highlighted in Columbia Pike: Through the Lens of Community. The exhibition will also include information about the neighborhood, the residents, and the photographers themselves. As the nation seems more divided than ever, this collection shows how one community is making diversity work.

For more information on Columbia Pike, visit its web page.

True Sons of Freedom icon

True Sons of Freedom
(Online Exhibition)

Exhibition Gallery & Lobby January 16, 2018 - November 9, 2018

True Sons of Freedom, a photographic exhibition at the Library of Virginia, explores the stories of Virginia's African American soldiers who served during World War I. More than just mementos for families and sweethearts, these portraits challenge the crude and demoralizing cultural products of an era that often reduced African Americans to stereotypes and denied them full participation as citizens of the United States. Reflecting the pride and determination of African American World War I servicemen, the images were submitted with the soldiers' responses to military service questionnaires created by the Virginia War History Commission as part of an effort to capture the scope of Virginians' participation in the Great War. The original photographs, reproduced in the gallery at nearly life-size dimensions, place visitors at eye level in front of the soldiers. The monumental scale allows viewers the opportunity to examine rich details not seen in the original photo postcards

For more information about the traveling version of this exhibition, please contact Barbara C. Batson, exhibitions coordinator, at To view the current itinerary for this exhibit, please click here.

Running for Office icon

Running for Office
(Online Exhibition)

American political ephemera is older than America itself. Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" set the tone for using plain language for persuasion to a political side. Flyers, pamphlets, posters, buttons, television ads, and more use the same plain persuasive language today. "Running for Office" highlights 20th century political ephemera found at the Library of Virginia.

Washington icon

(Online Exhibition)

This online exhibit focuses on the evolution of the District of Columbia, Alexandria and Virginia as told through maps. Maps from several Library of Virginia collections show the District from the eighteenth century through the American Civil War, and when the Town of Alexandria was a part of the District from the 1790s until 1846, when it was retro–ceded to the Commonwealth of Virginia. Here, you will find maps from several collections that tell that story and were exhibited as part of the Library's 13th annual Alan M. and Natalie P. Voorhees Lecture on the History of Cartography on April 16, 2016, titled "Virginia's District of Columbia."

Geographia icon

(Online Exhibition)

The Alan M. Voorhees Map Collection extends from the 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle through the U.S. Civil War period with the bulk of the collection consisting of pre–20th century maps. Included are maps made by Schedel, Ptolemy, deBry, Mercator, and Smith among many others. In a variety of map formats, such as nautical charts and views, the collection focuses primarily on the Chesapeake Bay area and the development of Virginia within the larger geographical and historical contexts of Europe and America.

H ist für Henkel icon

H ist für Henkel
(Online Exhibition)

These German-American early printed works are items produced by the Henkel Press, established by two brothers, Solomon and Ambrose, in New Market, Shenandoah County, Va. In 1806. Staying true to their German heritage, many items were available in German or bilingual format, particularly the illustrated primers displayed within. The Henkel family also included several prominent Evangelical Lutheran ministers, as well as entrepreneurs, farmers, and early pharmacists. Their broadsides marketing their own medical products and early printed religious works are also found in this visually striking and informative exhibit with materials held in Manuscripts & Special Collections.

Representation of the Beauty of Nature icon

Representation of the Beauty of Nature
(Online Exhibition)

These colorful illustrations, by Benjamin Henry Latrobe (1764-1820), detail the waterways and natural beauty of Virginia, found within his "Essay on Landscape," a two volume sketchbook (1798-1799). He was particularly fond of the James River and sketched it often within these pages. Best known as a premiere architect; Latrobe was also a naturalist and traveler who studied water, rock formation, vegetation and architecture in a variety of Virginian & European settings. His colorful watercolor & pen & ink illustrations complete with exacting descriptions in legible, neatly done penmanship are engaging and honest. His preference was for natural beauty in a landscape. These images provide excellent visual sources for Virginia landscape & culture at the turn of the eighteenth century.

Wheels of Change icon

Wheels of Change
(Online Exhibition)

Americans took up cycling in record numbers during the latter half of the 19th century. The invention of the safety bicycle, the bicycle form we know today, allowed more people to ride bicycles with ease. Cycling hit its peak during the 1890s and this period is known as the Bicycle Boom. The Bicycle Boom spurred on societal change through manufacturing, increased mobility, and women's reform. This exhibit explores those changes through illustrations featured in Puck Magazine from 1894 to 1898.