Virginia Heritage is a consolidated database which provides information about the vast array of manuscripts and archival materials housed in historical societies, libraries, museums, colleges and universities across the Commonwealth. The continuous addition of new and updated finding aids makes this a great tool for discovering primary source materials documenting the history, culture, and people of Virginia.

Learn more about our organizational structure.


How do I search Virginia Heritage?

Virginia Heritage provides a centralized means of searching archival resources held by institutions located around the Commonwealth. The Basic Search, located at the top of the page just under the blue Virginia Heritage banner, allows you to search by keyword or phrase across all collections or to search the holdings of a particular member institution. Once in the database the Advanced Search option allows you to refine your search options by using full text, title, identifier, collection number, and/or repository elements.

How do I participate in Virginia Heritage?

Virginia Heritage is open to all libraries, museums, colleges and universities, and other cultural institutions that have archival holdings that they wish to share. For more information please contact Bradley Daigle (bjd2b@eservices.virginia.edu). To join the listserv (VIVASC-L) please visit the VIVA Listservs page. See also the page “Join VH.”

What is finding aid?

Finding aids (also called guides or descriptive inventories) are the key to locating primary source materials. The finding aid provides a comprehensive overview of a collection, explaining how it is organized, outlining a collection’s origin, contents and dates, and listing locations within a collection where relevant materials may be found. It also informs the researcher about how a collection may be accessed or copied.

How do I access the materials listed in a finding aid?

The materials described in a finding aid are held by the institution which created the finding aid. Contact information including phone, email, and web address can be found at the top of the finding aid. Each institution has its own policies and procedures for viewing materials. Some allow for any researcher to come and ask for materials during business hours while other may require an appointment. It is best to visit the institution’s website for details or to contact them via phone or email.

What is VIVA?

The Virtual Library of Virginia (VIVA) is a consortium of nonprofit academic libraries in Virginia. Members include all of the 39 state-assisted colleges and universities, as well as 33 independent (private, nonprofit) institutions, and the Library of Virginia. The mission of VIVA is to provide, in an equitable, cooperative, and cost-effective manner, enhanced access to library and information resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia’s research libraries serving the higher education community. Please visit the VIVA website for more information: www.vivalib.org.

The History of the Virginia Heritage Project

The idea for Virginia Heritage emerged during a VIVA Special Collections Committee meeting in 1997. The committee’s goal was to make the unique resources of its members more widely accessible. The group decided the creation of a union database of finding aids would be a great way to accomplish this. The University of Virginia (UVA) had recently been involved in the American Heritage Project which was a shared database of finding aids describing collections documenting American history and culture. Drawing from UVA’s experience the committee began the Virginia Heritage Project (VHP).

Over the next few years the project team worked to make the VHP a reality. A survey of archival repositories at Virginia colleges and universities was conducted to determine the type and extent of holdings as well as technical capabilities. The team also planned and offered EAD training to archivists throughout the state. The project team wrote a grant for funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), which UVA submitted on behalf of the VIVA consortium. In April 2000 the NEH awarded the project a $250,000 grant.  By June of 2001 there were eleven participating institutions and 1,600 finding aids were available through the Virginia Heritage database. In 2003 Virginia Heritage won the Solinet Outstanding Library Programs Award for Preservation and Electronic Information.

Virginia Heritage has continued to grow in the intervening years and as of 2013 has more than 30 contributing repositories and 11,000+ finding aids available.


Join Virginia Heritage

Membership is free to libraries, museums, colleges, universities, and other cultural institutions that have archival holdings that they wish to share.

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