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Meet the Staff: Caroline Legros

09/06/2016

From answering phone inquiries to photographing new acquisitions, the staff at the VHS have a wide range of talents that help make our collections accessible to the world. Who are the talented men and women of the VHS? In a series of “Meet the Staff” blog posts, we will introduce you to the people who work behind the scenes to collect, preserve, and interpret Virginia history.

Meet the Staff - Caroline Legros, School Programs Coordinator

What is your name and job title?

Caroline Legros, School Programs Coordinator

When did you begin working at the VHS?

I first started at the VHS in 2001, as a work-study student. I transitioned to my current position in 2009.

What are your job duties?

Caroline Legros working with a group of students in the Story of Virginia exhibition.

Here I am working with a group of elementary school students in “The Story of Virginia” exhibition.

I wear a bunch of different hats in my position – most importantly, I coordinate all on-site educational programs at the VHS. Whether it’s organizing a field trip for a group of fourth grader students or making arrangements for a tour of our special exhibitions for a retirement home, I’m the person who helps visitors make the most of their visit to the VHS. I also develop and present educational programs for various audiences, and coordinate the Society’s Docent program. Lastly, I work with the Museum staff as a curator for exhibits like The Story of Virginia and Original Art. Read more…

What Is a Sublime Landscape? What Is a Picturesque Landscape? Where Are They Found in Virginia?

08/30/2016

Thomas Jefferson wrote that Natural Bridge is “the most sublime of nature’s works”: “It is impossible for the emotions arising from the sublime to be felt beyond what they are here.” He purchased the bridge from King George III so that so potent a landmark would remain accessible to the public, and his exclamatory statements about the bridge’s intoxicating power were widely circulated when they appeared in his book Notes on the State of Virginia (1785). The future president made Natural Bridge so famous that it was remembered a half century later by Herman Melville when the author described the sublime whale he created, Moby Dick. He wrote, “The fore part of him slowly rose from the water; for an instant his whole marbleized body formed a high arch, like Virginia’s Natural Bridge, and… the grand god revealed himself, sounded, and went out of sight.”

What did Thomas Jefferson mean when he reported “emotions arising from the sublime”? The explanation is that he had been reading Edmund Burke’s Philosophical Enquiry into the Origins of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful (1757), which led the future president to search the Virginia landscape to find evidence of sublimity.

NaturalBridge.1995.98

Natural Bridge, 1882, Flavius Fisher, Lora Robins Collection of Virginia Art, 1995.98. A traveler wrote in 1852 of “staring upwards in stupid amazement at so grand a work of the Great Architect.”

The British statesman-to-be Edmund Burke offered a philosophy about the landscape that guided connoisseurs and artists in Europe and America for more than a century. He labeled “beautiful” those things that are smooth, varied in form, or delicate, and induce in us a sense of affection and tenderness—like a rose or the bend of a swan’s neck. More relevant to the painter were those powerful forces of nature and those elements visible in nature that threaten our self-preservation and make us aware of the futility of human arrangements.

Burke considered “sublime” the cataclysmic natural forces—tidal waves, tornadoes, hurricanes, conflagrations. Also “sublime” are extreme conditions that threaten our existence—such total stillness, total darkness, and death. Jefferson found that a human standing beneath the towering arch of Natural Bridge or peering down over its edge feels physically dwarfed and intellectually taken aback. He argued that such a landscape should be visited and it followed that it should be replicated in paint for those not able to see it on location. Read more…

The VHS Brings Out the Big Guns (Literally!) with Arming the Commonwealth

08/04/2016

image of Arming the Commonwealth exhibit at the Virginia Historical Society. Photo by Jennifer Rohrbaugh Nesossis

From protecting yourself from enemy combatants to finding dinner for your family, weapons have played a significant role in Virginia history. Our newest exhibition, Arming the Commonwealth, made possible by the Cecil R. and Edna S. Hopkins Family Foundation, explores how the state became a hub for weapon manufacturing and how Virginians used them in their everyday lives.

Following the American Revolution, Virginia was the only state to arm its militia fully with locally manufactured weapons. In its short operational history, the Virginia Manufactory of Arms produced more than 58,000 muskets and bayonets, 10,000 swords, 4,000 pistols, and 200 artillery pieces for the state militia. Later, the U.S. Congress, recognizing the problem with relying on foreign countries for weapons, designated two sites for armories. One was Springfield, Massachusetts; the other was Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia).

The average citizen used weapons for hunting or for personal protection. One of the pieces that always draws in crowds, and one of my personal favorites, is the English Long Fowler, known at the VHS as the “Woodson musket.” I have met several Woodson descendants (and there are a lot of them) wanting to see the musket on display. It’s 7 feet, 4 inches long and has a .80 caliber barrel. It’s huge! It may have been used to hunt stationary birds or in the military as a “wall gun.”

Image of WoodsonMusket (VHS accession number: 1929.8) on display in Arming the Commonwealth exhibit at the Virginia Historical Society

English Long Fowler (“Woodson” musket), mid 17th century, Barrel; about 1750, Lock; about 1800, Stock, VHS accession number: 1929.8 (On loan from Charles Granville Scott and conserved with gifts from Woodson descendants). By Woodson family tradition, the oldest part of the gun was used by Lt. Col. Thomas Ligon, who helped Sara Woodson defend her Prince George County home from an Indian attack on April 18, 1644.

Read more…

Beat the summer heat with football cards at the VHS this Saturday, July 16

07/14/2016
BillDudley

When it was too hot to play sandlot baseball or football, I’d spend most of those hot summer days heading to the pool or going to the local sports card store. As my wife will tell you, I’m not much of a pool person, so the card shop was my choice. The card shop provoked my senses like a baseball game. There was the smell of the newly opened pack of cards, not the newly mowed grass. There was the sound of the chatter between a patron and the shop owner about a potential trade, not the sound of the crack of the bat. And there was the sight of the rare rookie card under the glass, not the sight of the home run going over the fence. These all stirred my senses. Whether I was searching for a Jerry Rice rookie card in a pack of Topps cards, trying to complete my set, or looking to trade a Yankees card for one of my favorite Braves players, I always had a wonderful time. Times have changed and card shops are fewer now that eBay has provided an online venue for card trading and sales.

This weekend I’ll get to rekindle my childhood journeys to the local sports card shop, when Bill Hall (former sports card shop owner) comes to the VHS and brings more than 800 cards from his collection to discuss the “History of Football Cards.”  The program takes place at 10:30 a.m. and is repeated at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, July 16. Tickets range from $4 to $12.

Bill Hall will cover more than 100 years of football card history including:

  • Tobacco cards
  • Rare cards (including error cards and chase cards)
  • Card rating systems
  • Modern era of Topps
  • eBay and card collecting

Bill Hall has been collecting for more than sixty years and has been featured in several newspaper articles and owned three sports card shops. In 1981, he presented a sports memorabilia exhibition at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Come to the VHS on Saturday, July 16, to revisit your childhood (or adult) hobby and see more than 800 football cards from the collection of Bill Hall.

Here’s a teaser of some of the rare cards you’ll get a chance to see:

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Event Information:

“History of Football Cards” takes place at 10:30 a.m. and is repeated at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, July 16. Tickets range from $4 to $12. Purchase your tickets now for the History of Football Cards.

This event is a special exhibition program related to the current exhibition, Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Why We Need to Talk About James Armistead Lafayette

06/20/2016

The following blog was written by Sarah Wells, a senior at St. Catherine’s School, who just completed an internship in the public relations and marketing department at the Virginia Historical Society.

Enjoy

Lizzie Oglesby

I, like many other young people these days, am undeniably obsessed with the Broadway musical Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Not only did the beautiful music and incredible performance change my life when I saw the show, but so did the history. Because of the show, I want to learn all that I possibly can about the men and women who were influential during the American Revolution. Hamilton has encouraged me to go out and learn more about the interesting people that fought in the war. I know, it sounds crazy—a seventeen-year-old girl actually doing research on something that is not required for school? Madness! This miraculous occurrence just further proves how important Hamilton really is.

When listening to the musical, I heard about a lot of men whose names I had either never heard or had only seen mentioned off-hand in a section of a textbook. One of these men was the Marquis de Lafayette. I had heard of him, but while listening to the musical I found out how important he really was. I had seen a picture somewhere on the internet of an engraving of the Marquis de Lafayette standing with a horse and another man. The caption below the engraving only mentioned the name of the Frenchman, and I saw a series of comments questioning who the other man could be. I never thought I would learn the truth about that mysterious man, but then I saw a small plaque in the Story of Virginia exhibition at the Virginia Historical Society. This plaque told the story of James Armistead Lafayette.

Lafayette and Body Servant James, 1993.178

“Marquis de Lafayette and Body Servant James” Accession number: 1993.178. This is a late 18th century print of the painting I saw depicting the Marquis de Lafayette and James depicting the end of the Revolution.

James Armistead Lafayette was a slave during the Revolution who volunteered to join the Continental Army and served under the Marquis de Lafayette. He was a spy, reporting to Lafayette the actions of Benedict Arnold (after he turned to the British) and eventually Lord Cornwallis leading up to the battle of Yorktown. He informed the Continental Army of the British movements and strategies while also feeding the British false information to keep them at bay. Lafayette played a pivotal role in leading the British to the attack at Yorktown, yet he is very rarely mentioned in accounts of the war. The Marquis de Lafayette abhorred slavery and wanted James to be free more than anything. When James was granted his freedom after the war, he took the last name Lafayette because the general had helped him so much.

James Armistead Lafayette, 1993.215

An 1824 engraving of James Armistead Lafayette with the text of a testimonial written by the Marquis de Lafayette in 1784. Accession number: 1993.215.

Lafayette’s story is exactly the kind that should be told today—he served his country even though it didn’t consider him as a whole person, and he found strength in the friendship of others. Hamilton helps everyone relate to American history, and by talking about James Armistead Lafayette, we can take another step toward helping everyone find a place in America’s history. The VHS strives to connect people to American history through the story of Virginia, and to “inspire future generations,” and by showing the lives of underappreciated heroes like James Armistead Lafayette, the historical society achieves just that.

Periodically the Virginia Historical Society will post content created by guest writers. The opinions expressed are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Virginia Historical Society, its members, or its staff. The Virginia Historical Society encourages discussion; however, we reserve the right to remove posts that are offensive, threatening, or insulting.

Father’s Day Gift Ideas for the Sports Fan

06/13/2016

With Fathers Day right around the corner, I thought I’d share with you some great opportunities at the Virginia Historical Society (VHS) for those dads who are sports fans like me. Here’s a list of several sports-related items and programs that the VHS has to offer and would make great gifts for dads!

footballThe Pro Football Hall of Fame has come to the VHS. Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame is on display until September 4. If your dad loves Sundays because of Pro Football, then he’ll love this exhibition, which features 200 artifacts from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. No matter what his favorite team—Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Washington, etc.—he’ll find something to enjoy in this fascinating exhibition. Gridiron Glory also has several interactives and hands-on activities that will entertain all members of the family. Purchase your tickets now for this special exhibition.

Baseball

Baseball game at the C&O Railway Field Day in Richmond, VA in 1923. Photo by Walter Washington Foster. Accession number 1991.1.43541.

It’s the 150th Anniversary of organized baseball in Richmond and we’re celebrating at the VHS. Our national pastime has had a rich history in Richmond, and Scott Mayer will be at the VHS at the end of June for a two-part class on “Baseball History and Richmond.”  He’ll discuss the origins of the game, what impact the Civil War had on it, the locations of Richmond’s professional teams, and the evolution of the modern game. Join us for a fascinating class on our national pastime’s link to Richmond. Purchase your tickets now for this class.

BillDudleyMost dads collected sports cards at sometime in their lives. Join us at the VHS for a discussion on the History of Football Cards. Bill Hall (sports card collector and former sports card shop owner) and Greg Hansard (Manager of Web and Digital Resources and sports enthusiast) will take you through the history of football cards from early tobacco cards to the modern era of Topps. This class will be offered at 10:30 a.m. and repeated at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, July 16, and will feature more than 300 football cards from the collection of Bill Hall.  Learn more about this event.

museumshopOur Museum shop is loaded with sports related books and merchandise. Here are my top five picks for dads.

  1. Hall of Fame 50th Anniversary Book: Where Greatness Lives($34.99)
    Edited by John Thorn (creator of ‘Total Football’) and Joe Horrigan (Pro Football Hall of Fame), this beautifully bound book is a great keepsake for any serious football fan!
  2. Washington Redskins Hall of Fame Legends Mug ($11.99)
    Sip your daily coffee surrounded by the best of the best when you drink from this Hall of Fame Legends Mug.
  3. Unbelievable Is Believable Here [DVD] ($24.95)
    Filmmaker Phil Wall documents the story of the 2011 Virginia Commonwealth University men’s basketball team.
  4. Arthur Ashe: Tennis and Justice in the Civil Rights Era ($34.95)
    Eric Allen Hall has created an intimate, nuanced portrait of a great athlete who stood at the crossroads of sports and the struggle for equal justice.
  5. Baseball and Richmond: A History of the Professional Game, 1884–2000 ($35.00)
    Scott Mayer and W. Harrison Daniel discuss the players and owners and also the nearly twelve-decade relationship shared by the team and the city.

A VHS membership is also a great gift for dads.  Discounts on museum shop purchases and programs, and free admission to our exhibition galleries are just some of the great benefits of membership.  Purchase a membership for dad today!

Greg Hansard is the Manager of Web and Digital Services at the Virginia Historical Society. Read other posts by Greg.

Meet the Staff: Evan Liddiard

05/18/2016

From answering phone inquiries to photographing new acquisitions, the staff at the VHS have a wide range of talents that help make our collections accessible to the world. Who are the talented men and women of the VHS? In a series of “Meet the Staff” blog posts, we will introduce you to the people who work behind the scenes to collect, preserve, and interpret Virginia history.

Meet the Staff - Evan Liddiard

What is your job title?

Senior Education Specialist

When did you begin working at the VHS?

July 2011

What are your job duties?

I am in charge of HistoryConnects, the distance learning and digital outreach initiative of the VHS. This includes live, interactive programming, our online teacher institutes, and creating and sharing digital educational resources with our audiences here in Virginia, across the country, and all over the world!

HistoryConnects studio map

I keep a map in my office that shows all of the places in the U.S. that we have reached through HistoryConnects. The list of locations expands every day!

How did you become interested in history? Read more…

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