Digital Virginias brings together historical materials from universities in Virginia and West Virginia

William & Mary Libraries has joined with partners University of Virginia, George Mason University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Tech and West Virginia University to create a digital hub of historical materials from their institutions related to the region.

Digital Virginias offers more than 58,000 items for research and exploration. It is the newest hub to join the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), which provides access to over 33 million digital items from institutions across the United States.

The Virginias were separated into two separate states in 1863, but Digital Virginias is a new representation of the historical and cultural collections that cross state lines.

“We are thrilled to be a founding member of this DPLA Hub, and to expand access to our collections on Virginia and U. S. history,” said Debbie Cornell, head of digital services at W&M.

W&M has provided digital files of more than 1,000 items from its Special Collections Research Center, including materials from the Thomas Jefferson Project, Tyler Family Papers and St. George Tucker Almanacs.

Some highlights from the collections of Digital Virginias include:

Letter from Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe
A letter from Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, July 2, 1824, from the collection of William & Mary Libraries Special Collections Research Center.

James Monroe Project

James Monroe, an American statesman and Founding Father, served as the fifth President of the United States from 1817 to 1825. The James Monroe Project brings together more than 300 manuscripts from six distinct collections held by the William & Mary Libraries Special Collections Research Center. The materials are chiefly correspondence, written and received by James Monroe and his family. Ranging from 1776-1924, the collection includes the correspondence of James Monroe during his many years of public service.






Bernice Wright in field with plate of tomatoes
Bernice Wright, Member Home Makers Club With Dish of Tomatoes Grown in Her Garden, 1915, photograph by Jackson Davis, from the collection of University of Virginia Library.

Jackson Davis Collection of African American Educational Photographs

Jackson Davis, an educational reformer and amateur photographer, took nearly 6,000 photographs of African American schools, teachers, and students throughout the southeastern United States. His photographs—most intended to demonstrate the wretched conditions of segregated and unequal African American schools in the South and to show how they could be improved—provide a unique view of southern education during the first half of the twentieth century.



Curricula page of The Advocate yearbook
Selected pages from “The Advocate” yearbook, 1967, George Mason College of the University of Virginia edition.

George Mason University Yearbook Collection

Yearbooks are the door to the past, and this collection of 40 yearbooks and related publications documents the history of George Mason University students, campuses, faculty, and activities from 1957 to 2011.





Student protesters in Farmville with sign "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" and "Educate, Don't Segregate"
Student protesters on Main Street, Farmville, Va., July 1963, from the collection of Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries.

Farmville 1963 Civil Rights Protests

During the summer of 1963, civil rights activists staged a number of protests in Farmville, Va., the county seat of Prince Edward County, demanding equality and an end to racial segregation and injustice. This collection of 490 photographs from Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries shows dozens of Prince Edward County African American students and others using an array of protest tactics to draw attention to racial discrimination.



Poster of Barter Theatre reopening on Monday, June 9th, 1947
A poster advertising the Barter Theatre’s reopening on June 9, 1947, from the Barter Theatre Archives collection.

Barter Theatre Archives

The Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Va. has been a cultural mainstay in southwestern Virginia since its beginning in 1933 when Robert Porterfield, a southwest Virginia native, brought a group of professional actors to Abingdon. Opening in the Great Depression, the theatre got its name from its practice of allowing audiences to barter food for admission to the theatre. The Barter Theatre Archives collection, made accessible with support from Virginia Tech Libraries Digital Imaging & Preservation Services, includes more than 200 programs, posters, and news clippings.






Cartoon of Rush Holt depicting the nationalization of coal mines
Which Shall it Be? cartoon by Bill Borne from the Rush Holt collection.

Rush Dew Holt Collection

To say Rush Holt was “precocious” would be an understatement. In 1934, at age 29, he became the youngest person ever elected to the United States Senate, a distinction he continues to hold to this day. Rush Holt became the real life model for the role of “Senator Jefferson Smith” as portrayed by actor Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. He was the subject of hundreds of political cartoons in newspapers across America, and the originals of many ended up at the West Virginia and Regional History Center at the West Virginia University Libraries.