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Virginia’s Green History

03/08/2012

What do you think about when you hear the word “environment”? Blue skies, pounding ocean waves, majestic trees, or the color green may be images that pop into your head. The idea of green makes me think back to Kermit the Frog singing about “Bein’ Green” on Sesame Street, and for Kermit it wasn’t easy, but he came around to embracing his “greenness.” The Virginia Historical Society (VHS) will be embracing the environment in March by holding a day-long conference, introducing the Virginia Environmental Endowment Records Guide, and launching the online Environmental History Records Guide.

“From the Earth: The Environment in Virginia’s Past and Future” is a free conference focusing on the historic relationship between Virginia’s environment and its people. The conference will be held at the VHS on Friday, March 16, 2012, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is sponsored by the VHS and made possible by a generous grant from the Virginia Environmental Endowment. For more information, visit http://www.vahistorical.org/news/veeconf.htm

Speaking of the Virginia Environmental Endowment (VEE), it is a nonprofit, independent corporation that came about by the way of a court order. In February 1977, in the U.S. District of Virginia, Allied Chemical Corporation was fined $13.2 million for polluting the James River with the insecticide Kepone. Judge Robert R. Merhige Jr. approved $8 million of this fine was to fund the creation of the VEE for the purpose of improving the quality of Virginia’s environment. In 2008, the VEE and the VHS formed a partnership with a grant to establish the Robert R. Merhige Jr. Environmental History Archive, with the VEE’s records serving as its foundation collection. More information on the VEE’s collection is available at http://www.vahistorical.org/arvfind/vee.htm

As part of the society’s partnership with the VEE, another focus is on environmental issues of Virginia’s past through the online Environmental History Resources Guide. The VEE collection is one of many housed at the VHS that offer insights into the state’s environmental history from the colonial period to the present time. The entries that join the VEE’s are drawn from collections that have been identified as being potentially useful to environmental research. For more information about the online guide, visit http://www.vahistorical.org/envguide/introduction.htm

I hope you will join us on March 16th for the free conference “From the Earth: The Environment in Virginia’s Past and Future,” and take a moment to visit the links above to view the Virginia Environmental Endowment Records Guide and the Environmental History Resources Guide. Though it still might not be easy being green, at least the VHS has made it easier to learn about the green in Virginia’s past.

L. Paige Newman is Assistant Archivist at the Virginia Historical Society. 

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