Browse Exhibits

“Who shall tell the story?”: Voices of Civil War Virginia

The Civil War had a dramatic impact on the culture, politics, and geography of Virginia. Battles ravaged the landscape, blockades and other political maneuvers transformed the economy, and profound regional tensions resulted in the creation of West Virginia.

This exhibition seeks to illuminate how Virginia was changed by the war, focusing on the voices of those who experienced it. The letters, diaries, scrapbooks, maps, newspapers, song sheets, photographs, and objects on display reveal the stories of these Virginians.

A manuscript of Walt Whitman’s inspired the exhibition’s title. Soon after witnessing a battle in Virginia, he wrote,

Who shall tell the story?…We talk I say of stories of this war—have histories of this war already; and shall have books of full detail, hundreds of them. In printed books, full histories of this war will come. O heavens! What book can give the history of this war?

The war stories featured here include those of Confederate and Union soldiers, working women and war widows, black troops and southern Union sympathizers, freed and enslaved people and prisoners of war, schoolchildren and University of Virginia students, poets and musicians, nurses and wounded soldiers. Diverse and contradictory, these stories confirm the continuing relevance of Whitman’s question.

"Who shall tell the story?": Voices of Civil War Virginia exhibition preview

The Civil War had a dramatic impact on the culture, politics, and geography of Virginia. Battles ravaged the landscape, blockades and other political maneuvers transformed the economy, and profound regional tensions resulted in the creation of West Virginia.

This exhibition seeks to illuminate how Virginia was changed by the war, focusing on the voices of those who experienced it. The letters, diaries, scrapbooks, maps, newspapers, song sheets, photographs, and objects on display reveal the stories of these Virginians.
A manuscript of Walt Whitman’s inspired the exhibition’s title. Soon after witnessing a battle in Virginia, he wrote,

Who shall tell the story?…We talk I say of stories of this war—have histories of this war already; and shall have books of full detail, hundreds of them. In printed books, full histories of this war will come. O heavens! What book can give the history of this war?

The war stories featured in the exhibition include those of Confederate and Union soldiers, working women and war widows, black troops and southern Union sympathizers, freed and enslaved people and prisoners of war, schoolchildren and University of Virginia students, poets and musicians, nurses and wounded soldiers. Diverse and contradictory, these stories confirm the continuing relevance of Whitman’s question.

Lady Freedom Among Us

 

The
University of Virginia
Libraries
Celebrate the Acquisition
of their
Four Millionth Volume:

Lady Freedom Among Us

A poem by Rita Dove

Declaring Independence: Creating and Re-creating America’s Document

An exhibition featuring the Albert H. Small Declaration of Independence Collection at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library

This permanent exhibit offers highlights of the Albert H. Small Declaration of Independence Collection, the most comprehensive collection of letters, documents, and early printings of the Declaration of Independence. The exhibition sheds light on not only the writing and signing of the Declaration, but also on its first printing, distribution across the colonies, and future impact on American history. The collection is on permanent display in the Declaration of Independence Gallery. An accompanying documentary film is available for viewing in the gallery.

About the Donor

Albert H. Small, a native of Washington, D.C., graduated from the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science in 1946. He spent his career in construction and real estate development and is the president of Southern Engineering Corporation. In the 1950s, Mr. Small began collecting rare books and manuscripts, developing a special interest in pieces relating to Thomas Jefferson, the University, and American history. He presented his extraordinary Declaration of Independence Collection to the University of Virginia beginning in 1999. Longtime supporters of the University and the Library, Mr. and Mrs. Small made a substantial gift toward the construction of the new Special Collections library to insure the continued preservation and accessibility of the University's treasured rare book and manuscript collections.

About the Exhibition

"Declaring Independence: Creating and Recreating America's Document" is on display in the Declaration of Independence Gallery at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. A documentary film about the Declaration of Independence, its signers, and highlights of the collection is shown continuously in the gallery. For hours and information, call 434-243-1776.

James Madison: Unsung Hero of the University

Marking the 250th anniversary of his birth, this exhibit describes Madison's important role in helping to establish the University, guiding it through its fledgling period, and contributing books and funds to the Library.

Landmarks of American Nature Writing

The Catalogue of an Exhibition of Rare Books, Manuscripts, Maps, Engravings, and Photographs related to the Literature of Nature written about Western Virginia from the Seventeenth through the Twentieth Centuries.

Red, White, Blue & Brimstone: New World Literature and the American Millennium

 

Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.

--Revelation 1:3

Muse and Confidante: the Angelica Schuyler Church Archive

Angelica Schuyler Church was the daughter of General Philip John Schuyler, a Major General in the Continental Army and a member of the Continental Congress. She married John Barker Church, a British businessman. Mrs. Church traveled in social circles that included the most prominent figures of her time.

The Church archive contains correspondence from the period of the founding of America, including letters from two of the Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, whose personal and political differences helped shape the course of political dialogue in the early days of the country. Both Hamilton and Jefferson write to Mrs. Church with a combination of intimacy and respect.

"To seek the Peace of the City" Jewish Life in Charlottesville

The history of the Jewish community of Charlottesville shares much in common with the broad sweep of the Jewish experience in the South and throughout America. It is a story of colonial-era Sephardic Jews and of nineteenth-century immigrants first from Bavaria and Wurttemberg and then from Kovno and Minsk. It is a story of peddlers and merchants, and of involvement and leadership in local government, the arts and education. It is a story of the commitment of a few to the creation and maintenance of local civic and religious institutions.

In the Brilliancy of the Footlights: Creating America's Theatre

“Out in the brilliancy of the footlights — filling the attention of perhaps a crowded audience, and making many a breath and pulse swell and rise — O’ so much passion and imparted life!”
--Walt Whitman, Memoranda

This exhibition celebrates the American stage—our playwrights, their plays, and that creative talent which transforms words into living theatre. A testament to our cultural heritage, the items assembled here capture the excitement and dynamism of more than two centuries of American theatre history. They take us simultaneously behind the scenes and into the limelight.

Papers of the Barrett Daycare Center 1935 - present

The Barrett Daycare Center, formerly the Janie Porter Day Nursery, has been providing quality child care for the Charlottesville community for over sixty years. The records of this facility document the growth, successes, struggles, and changes in the African-American community in Charlottesville. In addition, the records tell much about conditions in other organizations such as this one in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and throughout the nation.

Collecting American Histories: The Tracy W. McGregor Library at 75

For the University of Virginia Library, 1938 was an annus mirabilis. That spring it moved into the new Alderman Library after over a century in the Rotunda. Then, at the building’s dedication on June 13, 1938, the Library announced its greatest single gift up to that time: the magnificent 12,500-volume library formed by Detroit philanthropist Tracy W. McGregor. Presented by the McGregor Fund, the Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History instantly elevated the University of Library to the ranks of the nation’s great research libraries. The collection’s new home—the elegant McGregor Room on the second floor of Alderman—was dedicated on April 14, 1939.

The McGregor Library is world renowned for the rarity, quality, and significance of its books, manuscripts, maps, and prints. Tracy McGregor built a comprehensive and broad-based collection of primary sources relating to American history, focusing on the exploration of the New World, British North America, and the early American Republic. Over the past 75 years, with unswervingly generous support from the McGregor Fund, Library curators have more than tripled the collection’s size. In addition to enhancing the McGregor Library’s core strengths, curators have painstakingly built a major new strength in the early history of the American South.

In this 75th anniversary exhibition, we invite visitors, students, and scholars to explore the riches of the McGregor Library. We honor Tracy W. McGregor and his wife Katherine, and salute the McGregor Fund for its steadfast support in maintaining the McGregor Library as one of the very best of its kind.