200 Years of Stories

The Library of Virginia holds our community history.

(Courtesy of the Library of Virginia)

What started as a storage place for law books used by the Virginia General Assembly in 1823 has become a destination for historic records, ancestral discoveries, and even church cookbooks. “We collect what I’ll call ‘community history,’” says Sandra Treadway, the Librarian of Virginia. “So we’ve got those things documenting local history, as well as land records, tax records, governor’s papers—from Patrick Henry to the present.” Parts of its collection date back to the early colonial period. 

In the Library’s 200-year history, its location has shifted four times. Quickly outgrowing its first home—in a small room on the top floor of the State Capitol—it now houses more than 100 million manuscripts and nearly a million bound volumes at its East Broad Street location in downtown Richmond. Yet its mission—to preserve and provide access to the state’s incomparable printed and manuscript holdings—remains unchanged. “We are the most heavily visited archives in the United States,” notes Treadway. “So even if you live in California and if your family’s been in this country long enough, you’ve got a Virginia ancestor.” The Library is the most comprehensive resource in the world for the study of Virginia’s history, culture, and government.

To celebrate its anniversary, the Library’s 200 Years, 200 Stories exhibit will showcase highlights of its extraordinary collection. From March to October, the Library is taking to the open road in its own van, crisscrossing the state on a mission to share this Virginia treasure. “It’s a way for us to go to people even though this Library is open to anyone,” says Treadway.

“Virginia was at the founding of many aspects of our country’s history,” she says. “So we always say, ‘Virginia’s story is America’s story.’” LVa.Virginia.gov

(Courtesy of the Library of Virginia)

Debuting as part of the Library’s yearlong 200th-anniversary celebration, LVA On the Go is a state-of-the-art vehicle designed to enhance awareness of the Library’s collections and resources, strengthen ties to local organizations, capture stories and histories from community members, and provide a memorable and fun experience. Schedule below:


This article originally appeared in the April 2023 issue.

Konstantin Rega
A graduate of East Anglia’s renowned Creative Writing MA, Konstantin’s been published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Poetry Salzburg Review, www.jonimitchell.com, the Republic of Consciousness Prize (etc.). He contributes to Publisher Weekly and Treblezine.
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