The Library of Virginia Newsletter
December 2010

Library Sponsors Essay Contest for Students in Grades 4-12

In conjunction with the Library of Virginia’s African American Trailblazers in Virginia History program, the Library of Virginia, James River Writers, and the Richmond Times-Dispatch are sponsoring an essay contest for students in grades 4–12. Original essays of no more than 500 words are sought in response to the following prompt:
In his memoir Students on Strike, which documents the 1951 student-led protests at R. R. Moton School in Prince Edward County, John Stokes writes: “It is important for you to realize that you did not get where you are by yourselves. The best way to get an understanding of self is to know where you came from and where you are going.”

Students are asked to consider how the past empowers them and what event or person from history motivates them to be a better person and citizen. Prizes will be awarded to the top three essays in each division: elementary (grades 4–6), middle (grades 6–8), and high school (grades 9–12). Winners will be announced at the African American Trailblazers in Virginia History award ceremony on February 24, 2011, at the Library of Virginia. Winning essays will be featured in the Richmond Times-Dispatch as part of the “Race in Richmond: The Next Chapter” project.

The deadline for entries is December 17, 2010, at 5:00 PM. Entries may be mailed or e-mailed, to:
African American Trailblazers Essay Contest
Marketing Dept.
Richmond Times-Dispatch
PO Box 85333
Richmond, VA 23293

Contest Rules:
1. All entries must be original works that have not been published or submitted for publication anywhere else.
2. Entries must be received NO LATER THAN DECEMBER 17, 2010, at 5:00 PM.
3. No entry may be longer that 500 words.
4. Entries by contestants in the elementary school category (grades 4–5) may be handwritten.
5. Entries by contestants in the middle and high school categories must be typed.
6. The title of the work and the name of the writer should be centered at the top of the first page of the entry.
7. All pages must be numbered.
8. Entries will not be returned.
9. The Library of Virginia and the Richmond Times-Dispatch reserve the right to use the winners' (grand prize and 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places) names and entries for promotional purposes in all forms of media without notice, review, approval, or compensation, except where prohibited by law. This includes the posting of submissions for public viewing and voting on the Internet.
10. Submissions will be evaluated for originality and adherence to the contest theme. Grammatical conventions must be observed.
11. Judging decisions are final.

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Library Acquires Early Map with Washington Family Connection

The antiquarian dealer Boston Rare Maps recently approached the Library of Virginia about a collection of materials related to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company that it had acquired. The collection included a Map of the Country between Washington & Pittsburg referring to the contemplated Chesapeake & Ohio Canal and its General Route and Profile. October 1826. This map’s unique provenance and connection to George Washington’s family made it of interest to the Library. It was originally given as a gift from French general Simon Bernard to Eliza Custis, the eldest granddaughter of George and Martha Washington and daughter of Martha Dandridge Custis and Colonel George Washington. Recent budget cuts have decimated the Library’s ability to acquire historic maps that help preserve Virginia's history. Donations made to the Library of Virginia Foundation enabled it to purchase this important itemfor the map collection.

Bernard had presented a signed copy of the map to Custis, but the inscription had been washed away during conservation and the remaining impression had been covered by the thick Japanese tissue paper used to line and support the map. Library of Virginia staff members feared that it was unrecoverable. The map was sent to Etherington Conservation Services to determine whether Bernard’s inscription was still extant. The heavy tissue covering his writing was removed, revealing that the indenture was intact and readable. A printed copy Bernard’s original note is stored with the map.

Bernard served as an officer of engineers in the French army, rising to the rank of brigadier general in the Restoration Army of Louis XVIII. He rejoined Napoleon and participated in the Battle of Waterloo. After Napoleon’s second abdication, Bernard was forced to leave France and he emigrated to the United States. The administration of President James Monroe commissioned Bernard as a brigadier general with no powers of command, and assigned him to the Board of Engineers for Fortifications. During the 1820s he was assigned to transportation projects, as well as to fortification work. When the War Department formed the Board of Engineers for Internal Improvement, Bernard became its senior member. The board’s first assignment was to survey a route for the proposed Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, extending from Georgetown to Pittsburgh. The project was launched in 1828, but soon was superseded by less expensive railroads, despite the backing of George Washington’s heirs. The Potomac Company, which had been created by George Washington and preceded the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal company, had worked to create canals around the falls of the Potomac in order to encourage transportation and trade in the western regions. Bernard returned to France after the July Revolution of 1830 and was made lieutenant general by Louise Philippe I, later served as minister of war, and died in Paris holding the office of governor of the royal palace.

The Library of Virginia is one of the world’s leading map repositories. There are approximately 12,000 historic maps in the Library’s Map Reading Room collection and approximately 66,000 maps scattered throughout the Library’s various collections.

—submitted by Cassandra Farrell, Research and Information Services

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Virginia Author to Serve as Honorary Chair of National Library Week

John Grisham, who was honored with a Literary Lifetime Achievement Award by the Library of Virginia in 2009, has been chosen by the American Library Association as honorary chair of  2011's National Library Week. As part of his duties he will appear in print announcements promoting National Library Week, which will be celebrated April 10–16. "Create your own story @ your library®" is the 2011 theme. First sponsored in 1958, National Library Week is a national observance sponsored by ALA and libraries across the country each April.

Since publishing his first novel, A Time to Kill, in 1988, Grisham has written a novel a year. And all of them have become international best sellers. There are currently more than 250 million John Grisham books in print worldwide, which have been translated into 29 languages. Grisham’s newest novel, The Confession, was his first book to be launched simultaneously in hardcover and digital editions. Early reports indicate strong digital sales and total early sales eclipsing those of his 2009 hardcover offering.

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Commission to Present Conference on Military Strategy in the American Civil War

The Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission’s third annual signature conference will feature noted historians discussing military strategy in the American Civil War. The conference will be held Saturday, May 21, 2011, at Cassell Coliseum at Virginia Tech. Tickets are $15. Conference registration and a lunch ticket are $25. The conference will highlight Virginia and the Eastern Theater, as well as the Western Theater of the war.

Speakers will also discuss elements of the war that affected military strategy and tactics. As a special treat, the Stonewall Brigade Band will perform during the lunch break. You won’t want to miss this outstanding program!

Scheduled speakers include: James M. Bowen, William C. Davis, Dennis E. Frye, Gary W. Gallagher, Joseph T. Glatthaar, Richard M. McMurry, James I. Robertson Jr., Richard J. Sommers, and Steven E. Woodworth

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Library of Virginia Participates in National Digitization Project

Drover Plate

Thirty-four of the Library of Virginia’s rare and unique books from its Special Collections Department have been digitized by the Internet Archive through the LYRASIS Mass Digitization Collaborative. The digitization of these titles means that the public has free access to the books that are scanned, giving readers pictures of the actual text complete with color illustrations, underlined texts, and notes jotted in the margins. The reader views each fully searchable book as a flipbook with easy click-through page turning.

“As special collections librarians, we are often asked whether everything in Special Collections has been digitized ("If not the entire collection, then surely at least the rare books housed in the Reading Room?"), said Audrey C. Johnson, rare book librarian at the Library of Virginia. “While this is not a reality, we have chosen to digitize titles that reflect our Virginia heritage and Richmond roots, and to focus on scarce books and serials that are not currently available online. Our aim is to give patrons a window into our diverse and varied collections. We are excited to share these rare books with the larger community.”

The books were selected based on the following criteria: completeness, format, condition, rarity, uniqueness, collection strengths, Richmond imprints, and works not freely accessible online. The digitized titles range from grammar and spelling books to treatises on excise taxes on tobacco and spirits to charters for railroads and designs for rural residences. In many cases the texts include maps, color plates, and engravings.

To view the collections, simply visit If you have any questions about this project or the works that have been digitized, please contact Audrey Johnson at 804-692-0166 or

Funding for the digitizing came from LYRASIS members and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation through the LYRASIS Mass Digitization Collaborative—a Sloan Foundation grant-subsidized program that has made digitization easy and affordable for libraries and cultural institutions across the country.

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Museum of the Confederacy's 2011 Symposium to Decide "Person of the Year" for 1861

Who do you think was the Person of the Year for the pivotal year of 1861? Just as the recipient of the “Person of the Year” designation from Time magazine is not the best or most popular person, but the person (or persons) who most influenced that year’s events, so should your choice for Person of the Year of 1861 indicate his or her importance.

Was it Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. president whose election precipitated the secession of the Lower South and whose April 1861 call for troops prompted the Upper South also to leave the Union? Was it Jefferson Davis, the Confederate provisional president under whose leadership the seceded states forged a nation?

Was it Gov. Beriah Magoffin of Kentucky or Gov. Thomas Hicks of Maryland, whose actions shaped the war’s initial political geography? Was it P. G. T. Beauregard, Robert Anderson, Winfield Scott, Nathan “Shanks” Evans, Sterling Price, George McClellan, or one of the other military commanders who dominated headlines during the first year of war?

Was it the citizen-soldier, North and South, who volunteered to fight the war? Was it the African American refugees who voted with their feet and fundamentally altered the course and nature of the war?

Answering this question will be the charge given to the speakers—and to the audience—at the Museum of the Confederacy’s 2011 symposium to be held on Saturday, February 26, 2011, 9:30 AM to 4:00 PM at the Library of Virginia. The program, presented by the museum and cosponsored by the Library of Virginia, is the first of an anticipated series of annual symposia that will offer an innovative perspective on the Civil War during the sesquicentennial years, 2011–2015.

The speakers for the 2011 symposium are historians Ed Bearss; William C. “Jack” Davis; Dr. Lauranett Lee; Dr. James I. “Bud” Robertson, Jr.; and Chris Kolakowski. The speakers will “nominate” candidates and their lectures will make their cases for their nominees. Following a concluding panel discussion, the audience will vote to decide the Person of the Year for 1861.

Organizers have decided not to divulge the identity of the nominees ahead of time. To find out who the nominees will be and help determine the Person of the Year for 1861, you will have to come to the Library of Virginia on February 26.

As in past years, the symposium costs $35 for museum members and Library donors and $50 for others (including a box lunch). Reservations and pre-payment are required.

Please send a check with the registration and lunch order form to: The Museum of the Confederacy, 1201 E. Clay St., Richmond, VA 23219, Attn: John M. Coski. No telephone or e-mail registrations, please. For information (only), contact John Coski at (804) 649-1861, ext. 31, or by e-mail (

—submitted by John Coski, Historian and Director of Library & Research at the Museum of the Confederacy

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Looking Ahead

On February 4, 2011, at 6:00 PM at the Library of Virginia, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson will discuss and sign The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration, her moving masterwork chronicling the decades-long migration of black people from the South to the northern and western cities of the United States. From 1915 until 1970 almost six million black people fled the South looking for better life. Wilkerson uses the lives of three unique individuals to tell this story. She interviewed more than a thousand people and researched official records to write this dramatic account of how these journeys changed people and America.

Isabel Wilkerson won the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing as Chicago bureau chief of the New York Times, the first black woman to win the prize in journalism and the first African American to win for individual reporting. She has also won the George Polk Award and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. She is currently professor of journalism and director of narrative nonfiction at Boston University. During the Great Migration, her parents journeyed from Georgia and southern Virginia to Washington, D.C., where she was born and reared.

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