Today marks the beginning of the 40th Annual Appalachian Studies Association Conference, taking place here at Virginia Tech! Archivist Marc Brodsky has set up an exhibit in Special Collections to show off some of our collections documenting the history of Appalachia. Please come by to take a gander today or tomorrow during our open hours, if you are interested in what he has highlighted from our collections! If you can’t make it, take a lot at some of the display:
One of the earliest documents regards slavery in the 18th century from the Dickson Family Papers, Ms1988-094. An example is the following bill of sale for a “Negro Boy Named Elijah”:
We also have items from the Black, Kent, and Apperson Families Papers, Ms1974-003. Harvey Black, the great-nephew of Blacksburg’s namesake William Black, was a field surgeon in the Civil War. He served as the superintendent of the Eastern Lunatic Asylum in Williamsburg, then became the first superintendent of the Southwestern Lunatic Asylum in Marion upon its opening in 1887:
Here is the text of the first annual report for the Southwestern Lunatic Asylum, 1887:
Some of the other collections that I have not pictured here include
This year for Women’s History Month, Special Collections has some special thingsgoing on! We will have a display on the second floor of Newman Library near the main entrance. “Remarkable Women Throughout History: Snapshots from Special Collections” is a month-long display (March 1-31) with posters, items in exhibit cases, and a book display from the circulating collection. In addition, we will also have more materials from our collections on display in the exhibit cases in our reading room on the first floor near the cafe.We invite you to visit our exhibits during the month of March and learn about our collections and some of the remarkable women represented in them. (We’re grateful to our amazing colleagues throughout the library who helped us make this happen, as well as the students who delved into our stacks and boxes to find the stories of these women to share.)
For the fifth year running, our “What’s Cookin’ @Special Collections?!” blog will continue its “Women’s History Month” series, highlighting the contributions of women to the culinary and agricultural fields! You can view the posts to date here:https://whatscookinvt.wordpress.com/category/feature-items/womens-history-month/. New posts should also show up under this category as they are published. We don’t have all the posts planned out just yet, but we know will be featuring the work ofFrances Harriet Whipple Green McDougall (cookbook author, artist, and activist), Mrs. D. A. Lincoln (author and educator), and Ellen Swallow Richards (one of the first women to teach at MIT).
For months, co-directors Jim Dubinsky of the English Department and Bruce Pencek of the Library, along with Heidi Nobles have been working to plan and seeking to provide for every detail necessary to make this three-week long NEH-supported Summer Institute for College and University Teachers a reality. This past Monday (the 11th) was the first day in a schedule that will have the 25 extraordinarily accomplished participants from all over the country in Blacksburg this week and in D.C. next week before returning to Blacksburg for the third and final week of the program.
The official name of the Institute is “Veterans in Society: Ambiguities and Representations.” The impressive list of faculty include Jonathan Shay, author of Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character and Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming. Among his other accomplishments, Shay has served as the Chair of Ethics, Leadership, and Personnel Policy in the office of the U.S. Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel and, in 2007, received a MacArthur fellowship for his work on trauma and the moral injuries of war. Jim Marten is past president of the Society of Civil War Historians, author many books, including Sing Not War: Civil War Veterans in Gilded Age America and the award-winning The Children’s Civil War. Donna Musil is a documentary filmmaker, writer and activist, whose film, Brats: Our Journey Home will be shown as part of a three-show film series that is open to the public. More about that in a moment. Actually, these are just three of the stellar faculty that are participating in the Institute along with Tech’s own Paul Quigley, Director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies and James I. Robertson, Jr. Associate Professor of Civil War History; Edward Fox, Professor of Computer Science; and David Cline, also from the History Dept. and who specializes in 20th century U.S. social movements, oral history, and public history. You get the idea . . . and I’ve left all kinds of folks out. For a complete list, see the Institute’s terrific website.
So, what is it that all these fine folks have come to Virginia Tech to discuss and study? Broadly speaking, they are defining the dynamic that may be leading to the emergence of a new interdisciplinary field, that of Veterans Studies. More specifically, the topics range widely, from the ways in which classical literature may play a part in understanding and assisting veterans to the role commemoration and monument building play in cultural memory and the process of reconciliation following war; from the ways in which stories of military service can be captured in oral history to a consideration of the unique perspectives offered by women veterans; from asking, “Who is a veteran?” and considering the social status of veterans to the effects of war on military children and the ways the voices of veterans emerge in music and literature . . . and everything in between and beyond. The reality is that the fact and aftermath of military service define threads that run through every culture, across the generations, and have an impact on the most significant aspects of life and society. Through the seminars, presentations, and activities listed on the Institute’s syllabus, the participants will seek to investigate these and other questions, while defining the beginnings of individual research projects.
On their second full day in Blacksburg, the members of the Institute had an opportunity to hear about collections of primary sources that may be of interest to them at Special Collections. We set up a display of a few documents and other items and, after a brief introduction, made that exhibit available to them, and to the library community for much of the week. While some of the materials have been displayed before, there were several items that have not been exhibited in recent memory.
For example, to the right is a scan of a letter written in 1907 by Theophilus Cocke of Carroll County, Virginia. Mr. Cocke was a veteran of the Mexican War (!) writing about the provisions of a new pension bill that would raise his allotment from $12 per month to $20.
In a letter written from Kansas in June 1865, H. E. Norton complained that veteran members of his Michigan Brigade were due to be mustered out following the end of the Civil War, but were instead sent west. He writes, “[I]t is Generally Believed that the Michigan Brigade was Basely sold by the Governor of the State of Michigan for we could never have been transfered to this Dept. if he had not consented to it.” Norton ended up in Nebraska Territory. Extended tours are, apparently, nothing new.
Once in Washington, the Summer Institute participants will spend a day at the Library of Congress and visit Arlington National Cemetery. They’ll talk about the LC’s Veterans History Project and stop at the Confederate memorial, Arlington House, and the U.S. Colored Troops graves. On the way back to Blacksburg, they’ll stop at the D-Day Memorial in Bedford.
Back in town, there will be more seminars, more opportunity to explore topics of interest, and to discuss ideas with the other participants. More time to check out primary sources.
There is also a public component to all of this. The Institute is sponsoring a Free Movie Night. The showing of Coriolanus has already gone, but on July 21st they will be showing The Best Years of Their Lives, a terrific, Oscar-winning movie about returning World War II vets, and on July 25th will be a showing of Brats: Our Journey Home, the documentary mentioned above, with writer and director Donna Musil on hand. These shows begin at 7PM in the MultiPurpose Room on the first floor of Newman Library. Again, the public is invited and admission is free!
Things have been busy in the University Archives of Special Collections this month, with two exhibits going up this and next week. The first is the memorial exhibit honoring the memory of the victims and survivors of the tragic day of April 16, 2007. Every year we commemorate that day with an exhibit of items from the April 16th Condolence Archives. Please read the press release below to find out more about this year’s event.
The second is an update to the Virginia Tech Alumni Association’s (VTAA) Alumni Museum, with whom Special Collections has worked for over a decade to provide university memorabilia for display. Several archivists and students have been selecting items to update the current display, which will be installed next week. There is no end date for the display of these items, as we plan to continue working with the VTAA for years to come. Also, if you are attending next weekend’s Black Alumni Reunion, you will get to see several additional photographs from the university archives of many pioneering Black female students and alumnae at Virginia Tech, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the first six Black women to attend the university in 1966: Linda (Adams) Hoyle, Jackie (Butler) Blackwell, Linda (Edmonds) Turner, Freddie Hairston, Marguerite Laurette (Harper) Scott, and Chiquita Hudson. You can learn more about them at The Black Women at Virginia Tech History Project.
Day of Remembrance display in Newman Library shares words of comfort and hope
FollowingApril 16, 2007, schools, fellow universities, children, community and religious groups, businesses, and other individuals from around the world sent words of comfort and hope to Virginia Tech. These cards, letters, signs, and other handwritten items expressed the world’s condolences and gave Virginia Tech a global community of support.
This week, on April 15-16, many of these items will be on display in the Multipurpose Room on the first floor of Newman Library at 560 Drillfield Drive in Blacksburg. The exhibit, “Words of Comfort: An exhibit of letters from around the world in the April 16th Condolence Archives,” is free and open to the public, and will be on display from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.
These items represent over 40 countries and every continent, showing the outpouring of support from around the globe. Selected items on display include:
Campus visitors also left symbols of comfort and signs of support at memorials around Virginia Tech, which were displayed on campus for several months before being gathered and inventoried under the direction of the University Archivist. Together, the collection consists of more than 89,000 materials available through Special Collections in Newman Library.
In the summer of 2007, many items were digitally photographed for preservation and to share with the world. A large portion of the Condolence Archives of the University Libraries is nowpublicly available online.
The upcoming exhibit is organized and curated by LM Rozema, processing and special projects archivist for the University Libraries Special Collections, and Robin Boucher, arts program director for Student Engagement and Campus Life.
Free parking is available on weekends at the Squires Student Center and Architecture Annex lots along Otey Street. Before 5 p.m. on weekdays, a valid Virginia Tech parking pass is required to park in these lots.Find more parking information online, or call 540-231-3200.
If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please contact LM Rozema at 540-231-9215 during regular business hours prior to the event.
For more information and other expressions of remembrance, please visit theWe Remember site.
The Montgomery County Memory Project: People, Places, and Things of Montgomery County, Virginia seeks to uncover local treasures hidden in corners of family homes, making connections within and among people in thecommunity.
These events will educate the public about preservation and identification of artifacts, documents, manuscripts, and photographs while offering the opportunity to digitize them. Creating digital versions of family items will give visitors the opportunity to preserve items that may not withstand time so their families can have permanent digital keepsakes. The Memory Project events may also lead to discoveries that enrich Montgomery County history as well as visitors own family histories.
There are several events associated with the project:
A talk bySamantha Parish Riggin, “Antique Speak,” on April 10th from 2-4pm at the Christiansburg branch of theMontgomery-Floyd Public Library
Digitization day, April 23rd from 10am-2pm, Community Roomat the Christiansburg branch of theMontgomery-Floyd Public Library
Digitization day, April 30th from 10am-2pm,Multipurpose Room on the ground floor of Newman Library at Virginia Tech
A talk by by Spencer Slough later in the summer, based on some of the items digitized at events in April. More information will be forthcoming in the future.
WVTF ran a story over the weekend that includes an interview with the project’s director, Samantha Parish Riggin. as well as some additional information. You can read the article and listen to the story online.Questions may be directed to the Samantha Parish Riggin, Program Director for The Montgomery Country Memory Project at 724-493-0750.
Recently, our graduate student Rebecca asked about our twitter account – the question being why aren’t we on twitter yet?! Thanks to her prompting, we now are – check us out at @VT_SCUA!
Our first post you will notice is about the exhibit currently on display in our reading room windows about the history of African American female students and student groups at Virginia Tech. And guess what….one of our student volunteers, Alexis, came up with the idea and put it together!
With millions of users on Twitter, it’s a great way to stay current with different Virginia Tech departments and other libraries. Also, we hope the website will encourage our users to engage with us by asking questions, sharing their ideas, or notifying us of relevant stories and news. Because of its nature – being only 140 characters per tweet, we’ll be able (we hope) to share with our followers and others a bit more frequently than we are able to just via our blogs. Some tweets to look for from us include photos of neat items from our collections; announcements of new finding aids, new exhibits, or digital exhibits; upcoming events; and new blog posts on either this blog or our food and drink blog, What’s Cookin’ @ Special Collections?!
We hope that you will enjoy this new way to interact with us at @VT_SCUA!
This past Monday, a new exhibit opened on the 2nd floor of Newman Library. If you’re in the area over the next month or so, you might want to drop by! “Lincoln in Our Time” is an exhibit that includes documents, artifacts, pictures, and an interactive display with videos and presentations. Many of the materials on display come from Special Collections, and the videos are the work of a class in the Department of History, HIST2984: Abraham Lincoln: The Man, the Myth, the Legend.” You can read a bit about the exhibit in one of the photos below, but you’ll have to visit the library for more details. “Lincoln in Our Time” will be in place until April 15, so you’ve got plenty of time!
*Special thanks to Scott Fralin in University Libraries for the great photographs!
If “Lincoln in Our Time” isn’t enough Civil War history for you, you should also know about the upcoming Civil War Weekend on March 13-15, 2015. There will be guest speakers on a range of topics, showcasing Civil War history at Virginia Tech and beyond. Special Collections’ own Marc Brodsky, Public Services and Reference Archivist, will be talking about resources you can find here in our department. You can find out more about the events and register on the website!
Later this week, from October 16-18, Virginia Tech will be celebrating the installation of our 16th President, Timothy Sands. There will be a wide variety of events taking place around campus, all of which you can read about online:http://www.president.vt.edu/installation/index.html. This is exciting in and of itself, but we’re very proud to say that Special Collections has been invited to participate, too! On Saturday morning from 9am-12pm at the Inn at Virginia Tech, there’s going to be a showcase called “Experience Virginia Tech: Learn, Explore, Engage” (the schedule is online:http://www.president.vt.edu/installation/experience-virginia-tech.html). The showcase will includethree-hour event featuring panel discussions, presentations, hands-on demonstrations, and talks by Virginia Tech’s master teachers. The event includes a series of “Living on Earth” displays: ” Water, Water, Everywhere,” “Food, Glorious Food,” and “Energy, Efficient and Sustainable,” wewill be there with materials from the History of Food and Drink Collection! If you’re in the Blacksburg area, we would encourage you to come out to any or all of the events. And if you attend the showcase, be sure to seek us out! We’ll be there to sharingthe History of Food and Drink Collection through original books and manuscripts, a digital display of images, the opportunity toviewthe culinary history blog, and an archivist or two on hand to talk about our collections and department!
Its the beginning of August, which for those of us living in and around Blacksburg, means the blocking off of Main Street and the beginning of Blacksburgs biggest festival- Steppin Out. The annual street festival, which features hundreds of arts and crafts vendors and tens of thousands of attendees, has been a Blacksburg tradition since the late 1970s. It began as an effort to revitalize the downtown and generate revenue for various local charities. But while digging around in Special Collections Vertical Files (where we collect news clippings and articles on various local subjects), I discovered that in the early days, the festival had a much wilder, and unfortunately, darker side.
The annual festival was first organized in 1976 as Deadwood Days, based off of a successful annual festival of the same name held in Deadwood, South Dakota. The original Deadwood Days festival commemorated the shooting of Wild Bill Hickok, an infamous outlaw of the Old West, on August 2, 1876, in the town of Deadwood, and the Blacksburg version was held for the first time a week after the shootings 100th anniversary.
Thus, for the first four years, the three-day festival had a Wild West theme, and really lived up to that theme in more than just the decor. A 1980 article in the Montgomery News Messenger described it as a rip-snorting, music-and-dancing-in-the-streets gathering enjoyed primarily by the under-40 crowd, adding It has also earned the reputation of a three-day beer bust and drug festival. Festival events during those first four years regularly ran past 1am, with increasing rowdiness and numerous arrests made by the Blacksburg Police for marijuana and cocaine possession.
All of that came to a head in 1979, when the Deadwood Days festival was marred in tragedy. After leaving Deadwood Days on Saturday night, a 17-year-old Blacksburg High School student was shot dead by two teens that hed given a ride from the festival. The teens had reportedly been drinking heavily at the festival, and had no trouble getting all the beer they wanted from downtown bars in the hours immediately proceeding [sic] the murder. In the aftermath, community members blamed the free-wheeling, shoot-em-up atmosphere of Deadwood Days for encouraging the murder, and in July of 1980, just one month before the 5th annual Deadwood Days festival was scheduled to begin, the Blacksburg Town Council voted 5-1 to ban the event.
In the wake of this decision, one council member was quoted in the Blacksburg Sun saying the festival would have to be planned two steps this side of Mary Poppins if it is even to come off in 81 or 82. And in August of 1981, with the strong support of Blacksburgs downtown merchants, a family-friendly arts and crafts festival called Steppin Out was held. The festival changed from a three-day to a two-day festival, with an ending time of 9pm, and included more kid-friendly activities and a much more wholesome atmosphere. Needless to say, Steppin Out was still a hit, and 2014 will mark 33rd year of the this downtown Blacksburg tradition.
So if some curiosity for Blacksburg history suddenly strikes you while enjoying this weekends festivities in the historic downtown, remember that the Vertical Files in Special Collections has information on many of the buildings, events and people that have made this town what it is today, and were here to help you answer your local history curiosities Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm, every week. But until then, enjoy your weekend, but dont get too wild!
If you’re in or around Blacksburg, there are two upcoming events you may want to know about! On March 24, 2014, the University Libraries is co-hosting the Third Annual Edible Book Contest with the Blacksburg branch of the Montgomery-Floyd Public Libraries. There’s still plenty of time to register for the event (and we won’t turn you away at the door, either). You can visit the website to find out more and sign up:http://tinyurl.com/AEBC2014. Even if you don’t want to enter, please come to the Blacksburg Public Library from 6-7pm on March 24th. It’s your votes that will help us determine the winners in each category!
And, on March 25th from 5-7pm, the University Libraries will be hosting the Second Annual Appalanche. Appalanche is a celebration of Appalachian culture. This year, the event will include music and food, as well as displays and information about wildflowers, quilting, apples, the Wilderness Road Museum, and more! Be sure to stop by and visit us on the first floor of Newman Library that evening!