Friday, August 7, 2009

The Library of Virginia Gets It

Anyone who has ever seriously researched state or local history has probably been to the Library of Virginia to avail themselves of invaluable records and research tools. Chances are you have flipped through the extensive card catalogue by the map desk, wrestled with a microfilm reader that didn’t want to load properly, and waited patiently as the mysterious staff on the third floor locates the items you have requested and sends them downstairs. If you don’t conveniently work right beside the Library like I do, it can be a struggle to find time during the week to get your research done. The Library understands.

We realized that increasingly our users would visit us virtually, rather than physically, and their expectations for their online visits would be influenced by and change according to the Web technologies available on other sites they use every day for work, research, and entertainment.

They launched Virginia Memory in 2009 to help the public navigate online content. While there is something thrilling about touching the fragile pages of a manuscript that has survived through the years and has made it into the Library’s archives, I am ecstatic about the increasing number of digitized collections that the Library has to offer. Here are a few of my favorites:

WPA Life Histories: This collections provides a fully–searchable index with images to approximately 1,350 life histories, social–ethnic studies, and youth studies plus more than 50 interviews with former slaves which were created by the staff of the Virginia Writers' Project.

Stereograph Collection: Stereoscopic views were a popular 19th century recreational pastime that enabled photographs to be viewed in three dimensions. What appear to be two identical images adjacent to each other on a cardboard support are actually slightly different. When viewed through the lenses of a stereoscope, they "merge" to form a single 3-D image. The Library of Virginia's Stereograph Collection contains 318 images from many prominent and well-known photographers from the early 1860s to the early 20th century.

"Bird's Eye View of Richmond," from the stereograph collection, courtesy of the Library of Virginia

S Bassett French Biographical Sketches: This collection of digital images provides biographical information on almost 9,000 men, compiled by French between 1890 and 1897.

Chancery Records Index: The Chancery Records Index (CRI) is a result of archival processing and indexing projects overseen by the Library of Virginia (LVA) and funded, in part, by the Virginia Circuit Court Records Preservation Program (CCRP). Each of Virginia's circuit courts created chancery records that contain considerable historical and genealogical information. Because the records rely so heavily on testimony from witnesses, they offer a unique glimpse into the lives of Virginians from the early 18th century through the First World War.

Revolutionary War Bounty Warrants: Accumulated documents intended to verify dates of service of officers, soldiers, and sailors in a Virginia or Continental army or naval unit during the Revolutionary War.
These are only the tip of the iceberg, so do yourself a favor and check out the rest of the Library's digital collections.
- Catherine E.


john m said...

If I somehow got rich, I think I'd just move into the Library of Virginia. They have so much that I'd like to see eventually.

Anonymous said...

You can also check out the "Cohabitation Registers" from 1866 which document former slaves in Virginia.