Virginia Tech hosting THATCamp in April


The Humanities and Technology Camp (THATCamp) Virginia will take place on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, VA on April 10-11, 2015. Registration is now open, through the website,, which also has information about the schedule and lodging.

Please circulate this announcement broadly among faculty, librarians, and students across Virginia who are interested in the intersection of technology and the humanities. You can follow THATCamp Virginia through twitter @THATCampVA and #thatcampVA. Questions about THATCamp Virginia should be directed to Andrew Kulak ( and Kate Good (, Graduate Research Assistants in the Center for Applied Technologies in the Humanities.

Support for THATCamp Virginia is provided by the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, University Libraries, Technology–enhanced Learning and Online Strategies, and the Virginia Tech Office of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.

Call for Submissions: 2014 MARAC Finding Aid Award


Call for Submissions: 2014 MARAC Finding Aid Awards

The Finding Aid Award is given yearly to recognize outstanding achievement in the preparation of finding aids by institutions within the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) region. Nominated finding aids must have been made available to the public for the first time during 2014.

The top award will receive the designation of the Fredric M. Miller Finding Aids Award, in honor of Dr. Miller’s contributions to the field as archivist and author. Monetary awards will be presented at the Spring 2015 meeting in Boston, Massachusetts.

Call for Submissions
In the last decade, there have been significant changes in the processes by which archivists arrange, describe and make their collections available to the public: most notably, the widespread adoption of streamlined processing practices and a push to make our work available online. At the same time, the fundamentals of good finding aids have remained the same: they provide content that enables researchers to understand the materials in our collections and are designed to help them find what they need easily and quickly.

The Finding Aids Committee invites MARAC members to nominate exceptional finding aids for the 2014 MARAC Finding Aid Awards. Successful finding aids will have outstanding content, take full advantage of the design capabilities inherent in their medium of publication, and incorporate successful innovations that enable researchers to more effectively access and use archival materials. Please see Characteristics of Successful Finding Aids for more details.  Finding aids may be submitted for collections of any size.

Submissions are due by January 31, 2015 and must include:
- A link to the finding aid’s URL
- A nomination letter that addresses the finding aids’ exceptional qualities and/or discusses elements not readily apparent from examination of the finding aid itself.

Please see our Finding Aid Awards Submission Checklist for further information concerning the nomination letter and optional submission materials. Submissions should be sent to the Chair of the Finding Aid Award Committee:

Scenes from a Scrapbook: Victorian Christmas and New Year’s Greeting Cards from Scrapbooks in the Hollins University Archives

Today’s post is from Beth Harris, Special Collections Librarian & Archivist at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia.

Leila Virginia Cocke Turner (Hollins University Archives)

Leila Virginia Cocke Turner

Leila Virginia Cocke Turner (1844-1899) and her daughter, Leila Mason Turner Rath (1872-1937), shared similar lives:  both spent most of their lives on campus and attended Hollins Institute (Roanoke, Virginia).  Leila Virginia was the second child of Hollins founder, Charles Lewis Cocke, and Susanna Virginia Pleasants Cocke.  In 1871, she married Joseph A. Turner, Sr., Professor of Ancient and Modern Languages at Hollins and together they had two children:  Leila Masters Turner and Joseph A. Turner, Jr.


Leila Mason Turner Rath

Leila Mason Turner Rath

While there are a number of records that document their lives in the University Archives, the most interesting items left behind were two scrapbooks filled with beautiful greeting cards.  Shown here are just a few of the Christmas and New Year’s cards that they received from various relatives and friends.  Leila Virginia’s scrapbook was begun ca. 1882, while her daughter was given a scrapbook when she was thirteen years old, in 1885.

Some of the cards depict images of holly, ivy, and snow, traditional illustrations for modern day cards.  However, many others include nautical and floral designs that are not associated with Christmas or New Year’s cards today.  Please visit the Hollins Digital Commons  for more information and to see more cards.

Scrapbook1      Scrapbook

scrapbook5   scrapbook3


Exhibits Feature added to Virginia Heritage

An Exhibits link is now part of the Virginia Heritage web site. Exhibits featuring materials described in the finding aids are highlighted in this new section. If you have an exhibit you would like to add, contact the Outreach Committee at Current and upcoming exhibits are now viewable here.

Announcement from the Virginia State Law Library

The Virginia State Law Library is pleased to announce the availability of a new resource on the Virginia Judiciary web site, Supreme Court of Virginia Justices, 1779-present.  This online biographical directory can be accessed from the judicial branch web site at or directly, at The directory features the portraits (when available) and biographical information of each of the justices who have served on the Supreme Court of Virginia since 1779.  Our goal is to make this information available to the public, with the directory serving as an accurate scholarly resource for students, educators, historians and others interested in the history of the court.

Home page of the biographical directory.

Home page of the biographical directory.

Several archivists, librarians, and others provided  research assistance in the compilation of the online directory. Sincere thanks to Meghan A. Townes, Visual Studies Collections Registrar, and Audrey McElhinney, Senior Rare Book Librarian, Library of Virginia; the knowledgeable staff of reference archivists at the Library of Virginia; Cecilia Brown, Special Collections Archivist, University of Virginia Law Library; Lisa S. McCown, Senior Special Collections Assistant, Washington and Lee Leyburn Library; John Jacob, Archivist and Special Collections Librarian, Washington and Lee Law Library; Susan Riggs, Manuscripts and Rare Books Librarian, Swem Library, College of William and Mary; Suzanne Corriell, Associate Director for Reference, Research and Instructional Services in the Muse Law Library, University of Richmond; and student interns from the VCU Department of History and George Washington University internship programs.  A special thanks to Kelly Parrish, Department of Judicial Planning, and the Washington and Lee School of Law, for sharing resources gathered for The Supreme Court of Virginia: Historical Portraits of the Justices,1799-2011, published in 2010 (now out of print). The publication of this guide made it possible to create an online directory illustrated with the portraits.

News from George Mason University Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives

Big news from George Mason University. The University Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives is the new home of the Gilbert and Sullivan Collection donated by David and Annabelle Stone. The collection is all things Gilbert and Sullivan from original manuscripts to production materials to letters and personal effects. Read the press release to learn more about the donation.

Want to know what other collections George Mason University has? Search Virginia Heritage to see their finding aids.


An elephant in the archives

Today’s post is from VCU Libraries Special Collections and Archives.

Holding out the hope of a ride on the back of P.T. Barnum’s recently purchased Jumbo, this 19th century trade card, printed by J. H. Bufford’s Sons, advertises “Prospective fun for the children” along with the Richmond Stove Company.

M439 B3r Richmond Stove Co Elephant crop resz

Jumbo was an African bush elephant captured as an infant in French Sudan. Sold first to a German menagerie, he was imported to France, then transferred to England. He became famous for giving rides to children at the London Zoo until he was sold to the Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1881. When the prospective sale became public knowledge 100,000 school children wrote to Queen Victoria begging her not to sell the elephant. Jumbo did come to America where he was a great sensation and where, unfortunately, he died in a railway accident in 1885. His skeleton was given to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and his stuffed hide was donated to Tufts University where it resided in P.T. Barnum Hall for many years. Today, Jumbo is the official mascot of Tufts.

This card is one of many fascinating items in the Charles E. Brownell Collection of Architectural and Decorative Arts Ephemera (M 439 Special Collections and Archives) which you can see in person on the 4th floor of VCU’s James Branch Cabell Library.

Today’s post is by Alice W. Campbell, Digital Initiatives Archivist at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Explore. Discover. Share.

A new gallery has opened at Virginia Commonwealth University, but this time the exhibit space is virtual and not physical. VCU Libraries Gallery gives the public an opportunity to discover some of the rare and intriguing materials held in Special Collections and Archives at James Branch Cabell Library and Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences. The Gallery will feature exhibits of book art, comic arts, manuscripts, rare books, medical artifacts and VCU university archives, and each item shown can easily be shared on social media. VCU Libraries Special Collections and Archives hope to reach new and potentially broader audiences by sharing collections online.

Home page of the new VCU Libraries Gallery.

Home page of the new VCU Libraries Gallery.

Three inaugural exhibits opened the Gallery. “Remembering Theresa Pollak: An Exhibition on the Founder of VCUarts” includes photographs and manuscripts from the collection of an exceptional artist and educator of great importance to VCU. Another exhibit, “From the Library of Dr. Herman J. Flax: Physician, Poet, Collector,” gives viewers a look into a collection of rare books related to physical medicine. “Through the Looking Glass” displays microscopic images created by VCU students, faculty and staff and selected on the basis of their aesthetic appeal, technical skill and scientific significance.

Theresa Pollak exhibit, one of the inaugural exhibits done by James Branch Cabell Special Collections and Archives.

Theresa Pollak exhibit, one of the inaugural exhibits by James Branch Cabell Special Collections and Archives.

Future exhibits will present interactive artists’ books, and traces of previous ownership found in library volumes. You can visit the VCU Libraries Gallery at and keep up to date with Gallery news by following @VCUExhibits on Twitter.

Happy Virginia Archives Month!

October is Archives Month. All across the country events will be held to celebrate archives and Virginia is no exception. Since 2002, archivists from around the Commonwealth have participated in this celebration by creating posters and holding special events to promote the amazing materials found in cultural institutions across the state. This is a chance for us to share what we do with others and get the word out about wonderful collections that enrich all of our lives. We invite you to join the celebration. The Library of Virginia hosts a calendar of Archives Month events for the state. You can also find all of the images from this year’s poster on Flickr, as well as all of the posters from previous years. Of course we invite you to visit archival institutions this month and any month of the year because Archives are for Virginians!

2014 Virginia Archives Month posterVirginia Archives Month Proclamation

Tobacco Boys: The Universal Leaf Tobacco Company Records.

This entry is a repost from the Virginia Historical Society Blog. We are pleased to share this post by guest author Kurt Jensen.  Kurt is working with VHS’s business history collections this summer. We would like to thank the University of Virginia for partnering with us to offer this internship to one of their recent graduates. 

I find it hard to recommend the book by Maurice Duke and Daniel Jordan about Richmond’s Universal Leaf Tobacco Company, Tobacco Merchant, for a light beach read this summer. But it was a tremendously pleasant surprise to find a group of interviews in the Virginia Historical Society archives, conducted during the research for that book, that lend themselves excitingly to dramatization.

If the corporate world of creative advertising in the 1960s can command the attention of so many viewers through the TV show Mad Men, surely so can the story of Universal Leaf through the World Wars. Let’s call it Tobacco Boys.

Postcard - Tobacco Warehouse Scene (Virginia Historical Society, 2001.625.8)

Postcard – Tobacco Warehouse Scene (Virginia Historical Society, 2001.625.8)

It’s a story of young, largely uneducated men who make a great deal of money they don’t know how to spend; American businessmen at the forefront of international business, entertaining clients and buying from suppliers whose languages they hardly know how to speak; and of course their wives, many of whom worked for the company! (At least, before they were married.)

During this period, Universal Leaf ran a highly successful buying and selling operation in Shanghai, China, which helped the company avoid the worst effects of the Great Depression—an early example of successful international diversification.

It wasn’t a simple task, however. Executives like A. I. McOwan, a Scotsman known as “Mac,” had to traverse mainland China, fording dangerous rivers, with armed guards to avoid bandit attacks. Not to mention the fact that this period saw near constant political turmoil in China, from the Nanking Incident in 1927 to the Japanese invasion of the mainland in 1937.

Bombing outside the Palace Hotel

Bombing outside the Palace Hotel; Shanghai, China, August 14, 1937 (Image from Institut d’Asie Orientale via Wikimedia Commons.  Photographer unknown)

Here’s just one exciting narrative of love and danger in 1941—best-selling novel material—as told by Mac’s wife, Lou:


I met him in May, I think it was, we were engaged in June, and he left in July. . . . In those days it took seventeen days to get to China. He got to the west coast and kept calling me from out there, and so I flew out to San Francisco and we were married out there. . . . I said about three weeks before I met him, “Now listen, I am going on record now, standing here in the Richmond Trust Building, if I ever had to get in an airplane, I will never get in one for anything or anybody.” So you don’t ever know what you are going to do.

Mac planned to take Lou to Hawaii as part of their whirlwind, fairytale wedding and honeymoon, but they were stopped at the British consulate.

It was going from the sublime to nothing. . . . I had a British passport and the man in the British Consulate said, “Don’t take your wife anywhere.” Mac then said, “I thought I would take her to Honolulu,” and they replied, “Don’t you do that.” [T]hey might have known more than we knew.

Like in any good war drama, the British consulate charged Mac with delivering a cache of secret documents, weighted to sink if his boat was attacked. He managed to do so, but shortly after he returned to work, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and the Japanese Marine Guard took over international business interests in Shanghai and placed the employees in internment camps. The British consulate neglected to put Mac on their books as an official messenger of the British government, so he wasn’t exchanged with Japanese officers during the war. Lou recalled:

I didn’t hear from him for a long time, but once in a while I would get a message from the Red Cross that would be dated last August, and I wouldn’t get it until this August. I didn’t know for five years whether I would ever see him again. However, when I finally saw him down at Main Street Station, I felt like I had never been away from him.

When he finally was released in 1946, he went straight to Universal Leaf of China, which had been taken over by Japanese business men, burst into an executive meeting in his tattered clothes, and gave them a dramatic ultimatum to turn over the company in three days.

How would that be for a season finale?

Mac is just one of the colorful cast of characters at Universal Leaf. Everyone has different stories to tell about Pinkney Harrison, a ranking executive at the time, who was the type to go fishing with a client and accidentally catch the client on the end of his line. Or founder J. P. Taylor, who formed a company named Universal with international ambitions, yet hated to travel.

Universal Leaf logo

Universal Leaf logo, 1947 (Virginia Historical Society, Mss3 UN39a FA2, Box 2, Folder 122)

There’s also Sara Maynard Warwick, who accompanied her husband Pierre on exploratory business trips to South America at the expense of the company and who took the stand in legal proceedings when the issue came up with the IRS. When asked whether she enjoyed the trips, despite being told to say yes or no, she answered, “Well, yes and no,” which I’m sure the judge enjoyed.

The exotic settings, period fashion, high stakes business and war, and the outstanding cast of characters ought to make for excellent TV drama.

Periodically the Virginia Historical Society will post content created by guest writers. The opinions expressed are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Virginia Historical Society, its members, or its staff.