Christopher C. Kraft 1924-2019: A Miscellaneous Retrospective and Tribute, Including His Virginia Tech Connection, His Papers, and . . . the Story of a Close Call

In the couple of weeks since the passing of Christopher Kraft, there have been many well-deserved tributes to a life of historic and significant scientific and technical achievement. As many folks may know, he joined the NASA Space Task Group in November 1958 as NASA’s first flight director, created the concept of NASA’s Mission Control, … Continue reading Christopher C. Kraft 1924-2019: A Miscellaneous Retrospective and Tribute, Including His Virginia Tech Connection, His Papers, and . . . the Story of a Close Call

The Life and Architecture of Smithey & Boynton

After several years, I recently finished processing the Smithey & Boynton, Architects & Engineers Records, Ms1992-027. Partner in the firm, Kenneth L. Motley purchased the firm in 1992 and donated their historical records in 1992 and 1994. About 30% of the collection was made available before I arrived at Virginia Tech in 2014, but the … Continue reading The Life and Architecture of Smithey & Boynton

A Mystery Banjo and the Racism in Our Past

Recently, I’ve been working on identifying artifacts and university memorabilia in our collections, and I came across a beautiful, four-stringed tenor banjo and its case. I did not anticipate that an item so innocuous as a musical instrument would lead down a path into learning about the university’s racist past, including minstrelsy and blackface. To … Continue reading A Mystery Banjo and the Racism in Our Past

Chris Kraft: Oral History of an Aerospace Pioneer

Virginia Tech is proud to be the alma mater to many pioneers in aerospace engineering, perhaps none as famous as Christopher Columbus Kraft, Jr. The VT Stories team recorded an oral history interview with Kraft in April 2017, and Special Collections now has the full interview and transcript available online. The VT Stories summary of … Continue reading Chris Kraft: Oral History of an Aerospace Pioneer

Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Remembering His Legacy

This past Monday, January 16, was Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the U.S., and here at Virginia Tech we have been celebrating and remembering Rev. Dr. King and his legacy in numerous events all this week. If you haven’t been to any of the events, there are several more scheduled through next Sunday, January … Continue reading Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Remembering His Legacy

To “Friend William:” A Letter from Weldon Railroad, VA, 1864

We talk a lot about items and collections in Special Collections having stories to tell. Sometimes, those stories are full of clear details, exciting new surprises, and a creator about whom we can discover quite a bit. Other times, well, you might get a more interesting mix. The kind that results in some on-going, Scooby-Doo-style … Continue reading To “Friend William:” A Letter from Weldon Railroad, VA, 1864

Heros Welcome

A Souvenir Menu Recalls Earharts Triumphant Return to the U. S. The recent reports about possible new evidence in the 80-year mystery of Amelia Earharts disappearance reminded me of a little item in our collections: a menu for a 1932 dinner honoring the pilot. Housed, perhaps incongruously, within our Aviation Pamphlets and Brochures Collection (Ms1994-015), … Continue reading Heros Welcome

University seals and logos

The university has a lot of ways to identify itself quickly: a university shield and seal, a university logo and athletic logo, a motto (Ut Prosim,“That I May Serve”), a tagline (“Invent the Future”), and many other icons that signify who we are. But these have all changed over the years, along with the official … Continue reading University seals and logos

Less Than the Sum of Its Parts: the W. Dale Parker Papers

Behind virtually any collection of personal papers is an ego, a voice saying, I was here. I mattered. Such collections can be indispensable resources in chronicling the lives of the famous and infamous or in offering insights into a particular time or topic. While history may greatly benefit from these collections, however, it is often … Continue reading Less Than the Sum of Its Parts: the W. Dale Parker Papers

Where the Rubber (Historical Collection) Meets the Road (Monument)?

One of the first collections we received after I started at Special Collections in 2009 was that of a Union private from Pennsylvania, Charles F. McKenna. (Acquisitions and Processing Archivist Kira here, this week–which I’m only pointing out because this post is about a collection, but also some connections came full circle for me last … Continue reading Where the Rubber (Historical Collection) Meets the Road (Monument)?