Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia


Remaking Virginia icon

Remaking Virginia
(July 6, 2015—March 26, 2016)

Marking the end of the 150th commemoration of the American Civil War, Remaking Virginia: Transformation through Emancipation explores how the end of slavery and emancipation affected every Virginian, forcing people to renegotiate and transform their relationships. Remaking Virginia focuses on how African Americans made the change from property to citizens and explores the societal transformation experienced by all Virginians through labor, church, education, families, political rights, military service, and violence.

Remaking Virginia is on view in the Library of Virginia's lobby and gallery, July 6, 2015-March 26, 2016.

Remaking Virginia online exhibition

Wonder of Architecture icon

Wonder of Architecture
(Online Exhibition)

Take a tour of classic components of architecture and the realization of these marvels coming together to create some of the world's most iconic buildings in Wonder of Architecture. The beautiful plates in this exhibit are from Encyclopaedia Londinensis, part of the Library's Rare Book Collection. Compiled by John Wilkes of Milland House between 1810 and 1829, this volume explores the mathematical balance and proportion required for many components of architecture, such as the five classical orders of columns. It also depicts the evolution of architectural forms and components, leading finally to plates depicting iconic structures in Europe. St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Parthenon, and Salisbury Cathedral are just some of the notable architectural wonders that can be found.

Botanica icon

(Online Exhibition)

Take a stroll through our garden! Botanica is an exploration of botanical texts and art through the volumes of the Rare Book Collection at the Library of Virginia. Early herbals which describe plants for their medicinal value (Gerard's Generall Historie of Plantes, 1633 & Salmon's Botanologia: The English Herbal, 1710), textbooks and floras (Elements of Botany by Benjamin Barton Smith, 1804 & Flora Carolinaensis by John Linnaeus Edward Whitridge Shecut, 1806) which study plants scientifically based on their botany and taxonomic relationships. The exhibition also highlights the plant images as art objects that are not only beautiful but portray their subjects faithfully and timelessly.

American Ornithology icon

American Ornithology
(Online Exhibition)

Hand colored engravings of North American birds from American Ornithology by Alexander Wilson (1766-1813). This beautiful set of books, published from 1808 to 1825, is considered the first comprehensive work on American natural history and contains 76 full page illustrations.

To Be Sold icon

To Be Sold
(October 27, 2014—May 30, 2015)

"To Be Sold: Virginia and the American Slave Trade offers a frank exploration of Virginia's role in the business of the second middle passage—the forced relocation of two-thirds of a million African Americans from the Upper South to the Cotton South in the decades before the Civil War. Anchoring the exhibition is a series of images created by English artist Eyre Crowe (1824–1910), who in March 1853 witnessed the proceedings of Richmond's largest business. Crowe turned his sketches and experience into a series of remarkable paintings and engravings that humanized the enslaved and spoke eloquently of the pathos and upheaval of the trade. The story of the American slave trade is one of numbers, but it is also the story of individuals whose families were torn apart and whose lives were forever altered. Please visit To Be Sold: Virginia and the American Slave Trade to view the beta version of our online exhibition.

The March 21 symposium video is available at

Learn about two women caught in the domestic slave trade, visit Out of the Box and

Help transcribe documents from the domestic slave trade at Making History,"

A version of the exhibition is traveling. Please visit for more information.

Mapping Inequality icon

Mapping Inequality
(Online Exhibition)

Where you live makes all the difference, but that difference has a history. The current circumstances of Richmond's neighborhoods have roots in state and federal policies that have had lasting effects on concentrations of poverty and growth, lending patterns, homeownership, and educational outcomes for children. Neighborhoods that received a D grade in the 1950s now have a high concentration of federal housing subsidies and high levels of poverty. Children in these same neighborhoods score lower on SOL tests than their peers in neighborhoods with low poverty rates. During the foreclosure crisis, these neighborhoods featured high rates of default. We can use historic and current maps and data to better understand the connection between public policy and economic development in the Richmond region.

Flora of Virginia icon

Flora of Virginia
(March 17, 2014—September 13, 2014)

Flora of Virginia highlights the botanical exploration of from colonial days through 2012's publication of Flora of Virginia, the first statewide flora published since the 1762 Flora Virginica by Johannes Gronovius. The 2012 book identifies nearly 3,200 plant species native to or naturalized in the commonwealth. Since the colonial period, Virginia's flora has been collected, described, and drawn. As a botanist uses language to describe plant, a botanical artist uses pen, ink, pencil, or watercolor to help the reader visualize a plant.

This exhibition explores the important connection between the science and the art of the Flora and the history of botanical description and illustration.

Flora of Virginia is on view from March 27, 2014 through September 13, 2014.

No Vacancy: Remnants of Virginia's Roadside Culture icon

No Vacancy: Remnants of Virginia's Roadside Culture
(October 15, 2013—February 22, 2014)

The next time you drive along Route 1, glance out the window and look for an old motel. Some are now disguised as antique malls, others are abandoned and exist as haunting reminders of a bygone era, and those still operating don't look as inviting as they may once have appeared. Imagine these tourist cottages and motels in their heyday, however! Bright neon signs flashed "No Vacancy." Families unloaded cars for a night's rest. Hungry travelers ordered hot chicken dinners in the motel's restaurant before turning in for the night.

From October 15, 2013–February 22, 2014, a photography exhibition at the Library of Virginia, “No Vacancy: Remnants of Virginia's Roadside Culture,” focused on a selection of motels and tourist courts found along Virginia's historic Route 1, weaving the individual stories into their historical context. The more than 25 historic and contemporary photographs and accompanying text in the exhibition shed light on historic architectural elements, presented the significance of race and class in the history of travel, and demonstrated how the perception and operation of motels had changed over time. The motels were also explored through an array of ephemeral items including travel guides, postcards, and advertisements.

"No Vacancy" promoted nostalgic memories of family road trips, shared the tales of the Virginians who operated the motels, and inspired us to pay attention to our cultural landscape. From campsites to quaint cottages to sleek modern accommodations, motels tell the story of travel and society in Virginia during the 20th and 21st centuries.

You can now view some of the vintage motel postcards used in the exhibit over on the LVA Pinterest account:

WPA Historic Houses Drawings Collection icon

WPA Historic Houses Drawings Collection
(Online Exhibition)

The WPA Historic Houses Drawings Collection includes 140 drawings in pen-and-ink, pencil, and watercolor of houses, courthouses, churches, mill houses, and taverns, representing 39 Virginia counties. From 1932 to 1937, the Virginia State Commission on Conservation and Development's Division of History and Archaeology received funds from the Works Progress Administration's (WPA) Federal Art Project to commission five artists—including Rex M. Allyn, Edward A. Darby, Dorothea A. Farrington, E. Neville Harnsberger, and Elsie J. Mistie—to create drawings for a publication on historic Virginia shrines. Although the drawings were never published, likely due to diminishing funds, the collection presents an important record of Virginia architecture, both traditional and vernacular, and includes images of structures that are no longer standing today. The photographs from which the drawings were based are part of the WPA Photograph and Negative Collection at the Library of Virginia.

Dark Side: Night Photography in Virginia icon

Dark Side: Night Photography in Virginia
(June 10, 2013—October 5, 2013)

Night holds a special place in the heart of photography. The geometry of light and shadow creates an interplay of mystery, possibility, and the foreboding of the unknown. Rather than looking at night photography as an extension of daytime shooting with added complications, night photographers embrace the unique challenges of nocturnal photography for the tremendous creative opportunities it offers.

Due to the limited sensitivity of early photographic processes, exposure times were exceedingly long, even in the daytime. It wasn't until 1878, when the first dry plate glass negative was introduced, with its greater sensitivity that opened the doors to night photography. While many amateurs experimented with night photography in the 1880s, the earliest, artistically considered bodies of night images were made by Paul Martin in London in 1895 and soon after by Alfred Stieglitz in New York. The timing of this work was, in part, a response to the beauty of electric lights - a relatively recent innovation that had transformed the look of the urban night. This fascination with incandescent street lighting can be seen in many of the night photos taken by Virginia photographer Harry C. Mann.

Advances in night photography have paralleled advances in photographic technology for the last hundred years, and as night photography has become increasingly more accessible, an ever-increasing number of photographers engage in the practice on a regular, rather than occasional or experimental, basis. The exhibition shows how the art and technology of photography are linked, one often driving the other, and also explores some of the latest technologies of nighttime photography.

Drawn from the Library's photograph collections, Dark Side: Night Photography in Virginia includes images ranging from the 1890s to the present.

Inspired by these night scenes, we're inviting aspiring writers to interpret these works and submit to the Dark Side writing contest. Please see for full details and eligible images.