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The Virginia Historical Society’s Role in Richmond’s Impending Zombie Apocalypse: How the Past Can Help the Future



Zombies have become an inescapable part of pop culture in the past decade. They feature prominently in numerous successful films like World War Z, television series like The Walking Dead, and they find their way into a remarkable amount of media and literature. Zombies are so widespread they even feature prominently on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website! It appears the zombie apocalypse is unavoidable, so I have decided to see what the Virginia Historical Society (VHS) can offer when that day arrives.

First and foremost, the society’s goal is to preserve the state’s history, and it will always be best suited to do that. If the building itself is abandoned until the zombies are gone (an optimistic prediction), many of our valuable treasures and historic resources will be preserved for future generations. That being said, if the zombie outbreak occurs right at our doorstep and we do not have the luxury of choosing our stronghold, this is how things would likely unfold.



As our patrons descend upon us in a more ravenous fashion than usual, we could all reasonably assume the zombie apocalypse has finally happened. Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide (not a part of the collections, but available online and at most book retailers) provides invaluable instructions for such a situation, and it clearly outlines how to proceed. Because of the copious amount of windows on the first floor, we would be forced to retreat to the second floor and start barricading the stairwells. Fortunately, along with the large amounts of furniture on hand, there is also a healthy stock of tools and handy supplies such as plywood and 2x4s kept by the maintenance staff. Once the barricades were up and the immediate danger passed, we would know to start stockpiling water from the numerous bathrooms. Then it would be time to take stock of the VHS’s strengths and weakness.

The VHS has a considerable supply of first aid materials and as mentioned before a wide range of tools for any maintenance needs. We also have invaluable human resources, as several staff members are CERC (Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication) certified and would have exceptional knowledge and the ability to lead in any disaster situation. A natural gas-run electrical generator provides power for our most crucial needs once the electricity goes out, and a small fleet of cars and a dump truck provide escape and reconnaissance options. Furthermore the society’s large, four story building offers the safety of height and would allow us to focus our defenses considering there are only a few stairwells.

As for manning those defenses, the VHS does have a variety of weaponry available to battle the undead. 2013.5.8_StoryOfVA_084

We boast a magnificent collection of muskets, but no powder or ammunition. They are best served as clubs and spears (with attached bayonets). Our assortment of swords will prove quite useful as well, as they won’t discriminate between the living and the undead any more than they would a gray and a blue coat. A sleek saber, such as the one below, would give its wielder some elegance in disposing of the dead, whereas a naval cutlass is a shorter blade made for close-quarters hacking.




Things could get messy…

A pike, like this one that John Brown attempted to arm slaves with during his infamous failed raid on Harpers Ferry, would hopefully see more success in keeping zombies pinned away from its handler.


If only we had John Brown around to scare off the zombies.

If all else fails, there are substantial amounts of grain alcohol and acetone in our conservation lab, which could be used to fuel Molotov cocktails.

The VHS library contains a few real gems for the apocalypse. Francis P. Porcher’s Resources of the Southern Fields and Forests, Medical, Economical, and Agricultural (call number: C.I. 3041) offers a plethora of helpful uses for plants found in and around Virginia. A 1937 Red Cross first-aid textbook (call number: RC 87 R313 1937) could prove helpful in a pinch. Unsurprisingly, though, the majority of the VHS’s resources are dated and inapplicable for the present situation. I risk my job by suggesting they are best served as fuel.

Unfortunately, there are serious dangers to using the VHS as a zombie-proof fortress. Apart from a couple vending machines, the building has little to no food supplies. The location is less than ideal as well. The Map of the Dead (another helpful online resource for mapping the Zombie Apocalypse) points out many useful resources near the VHS, such as convenience stores, pharmacies, and hospitals.


However, all of those resources are ultimately not enough to outweigh the fact that the best place to be during a zombie apocalypse is far, far away from population centers. Therefore, we can only suggest the VHS as a temporary refuge and supply stop on your way out of Richmond. Stick around too long and you’re history!

Tony Walters is a library clerk at the Virginia Historical Society.

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