Documenting the pandemic: how to donate Covid-19 related materials to the University Archives

During these trying times, a great many faculty have come forward with the idea of students documenting their lives during the pandemic. Here at the Small Special Collections Library, we welcome all donations of these materials.

To guide you through the donation process, we have created the following checklist:

  1. Contact Whitney Buccicone (, Interim University Archivist.
    1. Whitney will send you a copy of the Deed of Gift and its explanation document.
  2. Complete Deed of Gift and send two signed copies to Whitney using the address below.
    1. These must be paper copies, signed in pen, due to Virginia regulations.
    2. These can also be signed and sent digitally to Whitney’s e-mail address.
  3. When ready, mail in the journal or other pandemic-related materials.

Address for two signed Deeds of Gift and materials to donate:

Whitney Buccicone, Interim University Archivist

℅ Small Special Collections

170 McCormick Rd

Charlottesville, VA 22904

Due to the continuing concerns over the pandemic, no materials will be allowed to be dropped off in-person until our building is reopened. Materials can be donated anonymously but a Deed of Gift must be completed to have these materials available for research use.

If you are a faculty member interested in donating your students’ materials to Special Collections, please reach out to Whitney Buccicone directly.

Thank you!

Signed with a Kiss: Linnie’s Love Letters to Guy, 1944-1945

This week, we are pleased to share a guest post from archival processor Ellen Welch, who, from time to time, shares her processing discoveries with colleagues over email. Posting on the blog for the first time, Ellen shares a collection that provides a glimpse of wartime love-letter conventions in the 1940s.

You are so fine and true and the swellest husband on earth. You just have to come home to me. I’ll wait for you always. Be a good sailor, dear, and take care of yourself for you are precious to me.

Detail of one of Linnie’s letters, signed with her name, numerous “x” marks, and a bright red lipstick kiss. (MSS 15588)

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to read your parents’, grandparents’, or great grandparents’ love letters from World War II?  Here at Special Collections, we have many collections of letters from wartime. The latest addition is a collection of 1944-1945 love letters written by Linnie Ethel Davis to her boyfriend (and then husband) Guy Elwood Webb, a sailor in the U.S. Navy. The couple were married when he visited her on leave in Richmond, Virginia in May 1944. Linnie’s letters show her complete devotion to Guy, her constant worry for his safety, and her desperate desire to have him safely at home. She reassures him of her love and encourages him to be strong and learn as much as he can while he is there and tells him that he will back home soon. “You are the sweetest, noblest, finest, darling, sweetheart a girl can have,” she writes; she loves him “more than anything in the whole wide world.”

Linnie’s letters reveal the sacrifices of the “home front”: she makes and sends him care packages and saves most of his monthly earnings for their future. Instead of going out with other young people after work, she goes straight home in case he telephones–and works overtime in order to pay for those long-distance calls. She tries to be brave by not crying in front of anyone, even family. The letters briefly mention air raids, gas rations, and the absence of any young men in town.

Some of Linnie’s many letters, now available for researchers (MSS 15588)



Linnie makes a scrapbook for Guy and fills it with cards from him, newspaper clippings about the war, commercial naval photographs, and postcards from his time in Hawaii. The letters describe her making the scrapbook–and the actual scrapbook is also part of the collection. We follow him from boot camp in the Great Lakes, Illinois to continued service in Haywood and Shoemaker, California, and Honolulu, Hawaii. Linnie writes, “Tis hard being married to a sailor. You never know where he is or where he is going.”

One assumes from the collection that he made it home safely, as the letters stop after he sends a telegram that says that he is departing San Francisco for home in 1945. Indeed, they were reunited, and remained together even after death, as can be seen by their shared gravestone in Richmond, Virginia.

Guy’s final message to Linnie (MSS 15588)









Thanks, Ellen!

McGregor Grant Project Concludes

On November 5 high-resolution scans of John Lawson’s A New Voyage to Carolina (London, 1709) were added to the U.Va. Library’s digital repository and made publicly accessible through Virgo, the Library’s online catalog. This brought to a successful close our six-year effort to improve access to the world-renowned Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History.

Virgo record for John Lawson, A New Voyage to Carolina (London, 1709) with image viewer.

First, some background. On the day that Alderman Library was dedicated in June 1938, U.Va. received a truly transformational gift: the Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History. Initially formed by Detroit philanthropist Tracy W. McGregor, the McGregor Library was then, and remains, one of the nation’s foremost collections of rare books documenting the discovery and settlement of the New World, and the pre-1900 history of North America and the United States.

Some of the mid-16th century imprints in the McGregor Library (photo by Eze Amos)

Since 1938 the McGregor Fund of Detroit, Mich., has partnered with the U.Va. Library to provide for the superb library collected by its founder, Tracy W. McGregor. The McGregor Fund’s first benefaction was the magnificent McGregor Room in Alderman Library, built expressly to house the McGregor Library and to serve as a Special Collections reading room. Other major McGregor Fund gifts have included the recent McGregor Room renovation; a substantial acquisitions endowment for the McGregor Library, which has quintupled in size since 1938; a series of publications based on the collection; and the annual Tracy W. and Katherine W. McGregor Distinguished Lecture in American History.

In 2013 the McGregor Fund offered to finance a major initiative to expand public access to the McGregor Library. We proposed a two-pronged approach involving the rarest and most significant works in the 20,000-volume McGregor Library: 1) prepare and make freely accessible online high-resolution digital images of these works, and 2) improve their discoverability in Virgo and other bibliographical databases by upgrading their catalog records. The McGregor Fund generously provided an initial grant of $245,000, awarding an additional $70,000 in 2017 so that we could expand the project’s scope.

Key members of Team McGregor include: Sam Pierceall, Imaging Specialist and Project Coordinator; Adam Newman, student supervisor; and Christina Deane, Manager, Digital Production Group (photo by Eze Amos)

McGregor Grant Project work began on January 13, 2014, and ten days later the first scanned book was posted online: Amerigo Vespucci’s account of his third exploratory voyage along the Brazilian coast, published in Strasbourg in 1505. Since then the skilled student and professional staff of the U.Va. Library’s Digital Production Group have digitized a total of 136,067 pages from 547 rare McGregor Library works. Now researchers anywhere in the world may freely access these volumes by calling up their Virgo records, to which the images are linked. The books can be read using the Virgo image viewer or downloaded in PDF form. Concurrently project cataloger Yu Lee An substantially enhanced the Virgo records for 2,051 McGregor Library books—fully 10% of the entire collection.

Some of the 547 rare McGregor Library works that were digitized and recataloged during the project.

The volumes selected for scanning and recataloging are not only the McGregor Library’s most significant works, but also those most heavily used for research and instruction. Mindful of our obligation to preserve these books for future generations, we can minimize wear and tear on these priceless works by offering more viewing options to infinitely more readers. Moreover, the digital images have been archived permanently so that the volumes should never need rescanning.

On View Now: What Lies Beneath (Visit if you dare…)

Curated by the Small Library’s Reference Team, What Lies Beneath: The Macabre and Spooktacular of Special Collections, takes a deeper dive into the catacombs of UVA’s archival netherworld. Leaving no page unturned nor manuscript box unopened, curators Anne Causey, Regina Rush, and Penny White have ferreted out the frightening and ghoulish side of Special Collections. The resulting exhibition is designed to whet the appetite of ghoul seekers young and old.

Ever want to see our stacks in person? Our exhibition poster might change your mind. Or you might want to pick one up to take back to your dorm–weirdo!

Would you believce that’s a real spider on the wall? Ok, ok, we admit, it’s a facsimile of a spider.

Located just a stone’s throw away from West Range #13—the purported room of the University of Virginia’s masterful matriculate of the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe—lies a subterranean treasure trove of historical and literary scholarship.

Poe’s raven gets top billing, of course.

Yes, that’s a real raccoon coat and tail (More Cooning With Cooners, SK341 .C6 K83 2011-Marion DuPont Scott Sporting Collection); a leather book edged with shark teeth by fine binder Gabby Cooksby (Fantasy & Nonsense: Poems, PS2702 .T77 2001-Clifton Waller Barrett Library, James Whitcomb Riley Collection); and a miniature book bound in black calf suede and leather with colored leader onlays and shaped into the head of a hound by fine bookbinder Jarmila Sobata (The Hound of the Baskervilles: Conclusion & Retrospection, McGehee 05222 -McGehee Miniature Book Collection).

Did you know there are more than 3,000 species of spiders roaming around North America? We even have a few right here in the stacks, including The Spider written by Luide Woelflein and illustrated by Tomo Narashima (PZ92 .F6 D52 1992e) from the Brenda Forman Collection of Pop-up and Moveable Books.

No Halloween exhibition at this university would be complete without paying homage to the former Hoo and reigning Master of the Macabre, Edgar Allan Poe. Books, including miniatures (The Tell-Tale Heart, 2015, on loan from private collection and Poe, Master of Macabre, McGehee 01687 -McGehee Miniature Book Collection) and pop-ups (The Raven: A Spectacular Pop-Up Presentation of Poe’s Haunting Masterpiece, PS2609 .A1 2016b -Robert & Virginia Tunstall Trust Fund) are but a small sampling of Poe-influenced holdings. The broken windowpane on view in the exhibition—rumored to be from Poe’s Room 13 on the West Range—has the following verse etched into its glass: “O Thou timid one, let not thy/ Form rest in slumber within these/ Unhallowed walls,/ For herein lies/ The ghost of an awful crime.”

Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of the short-lived Commonwealth of England following the defeat of King Charles, died of natural causes in 1658. Upon the restoration of the monarchy in 1661, Cromwell’s body was exhumed and subjected to a posthumous execution: he was hanged, beheaded, and his body thrown into a pit. His head was displayed on a pole outside Westminster Hall until 1685. This plaster cast is a copy from one of several death masks created(by pouring plaster or wax over the deceased’s face shortly after death)following Cromwell’s death in 1658, prior to his grim exhumation. (MSS 5368-a-Gift of Charles C. Abbott).


Come meet James Steele, the Revolutionary War soldier who lost his head and lived to tell about it. Have a Dance with Death…or, perhaps, you may want to sample an embalming recipe that’s simply to die for. As you explore this exhibition, we hope you will go, in the words of Edgar Allan Poe,“deep into that darkness peering…wondering, fearing, doubting,dreaming dreams no mortal dared to dream before.”Come and See…If You Dare!

What Lies Beneath is on view in the First Floor Gallery of Harrison/Small through December 21, 2019.


Now Live: The New Special Collections Request System!

Today, the Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library is launching a new online request and material circulation system.

The Special Collections Request System is an automated request and workflow management software specifically designed for special collections libraries and archives.

This new system will improve how researchers register and request materials held by the Small Special Collections Library by…

This one-time registration process is easy and includes the creation of your online account. With this account, you will be able to request materials from the Library’s online catalog, VIRGO and archival materials from Archives at UVA for use in our reading room. You will also be able to track the status of your requests. UVA students, faculty, staff, and current community users will be required to register in this new systemRegister now.

  • Empowering researchers to request materials before visiting:

Researchers will now be able to request collection materials before arriving at the Library. Please note that researchers are limited to 10 active item requests at one time. Additional requests may be made once the initial 10 items have been viewed. Requests can be made from your online account by using the links under the New Requests section of your dashboard.

Please note that visitors must bring a valid photo ID:

ALL researchers will be asked to present a valid photo ID once to confirm registration. UVA students, faculty, and staff should present their UVA ID card to complete registration.

Questions? For more information about our new request system and how it can serve you, please see our FAQ page.

Begin your registration now.

Coming Soon: A New Special Collections Request System!

New flexibility. New look. New procedures.

On Wednesday, May 15, 2019, the Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library will launch a new online request and material circulation system.

The Special Collections Request System is an automated request and workflow management software specifically designed for special collections libraries and archives. This new system will improve how researchers register and request materials held by the Small Special Collections Library.

Stay tuned for more information about how our new request system will serve you on Wednesday!

New Exhibition: Jefferson’s Unbuilt Plan for a University Botanical Garden

Our library neighbors—Alderman Library and Clemons Library—were built into the side of a hill sloping down to a sunken grassy area known as Nameless Field. When not too swampy to traverse, Nameless Field is home to the occasional soccer game or Quidditch match, and the recently added beach volleyball courts are popular with U.Va. students. But apart from the small portion now occupied by Alderman and Clemons Libraries, and a service road, U.Va. has yet to designate the site for permanent development.

Actually, that’s not fully accurate. In April 1826, U.Va.’s first Rector, Thomas Jefferson, selected the site as the location for a university botanical garden. Jefferson then tasked U.Va.’s first professor of natural history, John Patten Emmet, with its construction. But neither funds nor laborers could be spared just then from other U.Va. priorities, such as completing the Rotunda and patching its leaky dome. Following Jefferson’s death on July 4, 1826, interest in the botanical garden soon waned. Despite occasional attempts to revive the project—most recently in the early 20th century—it remains unbuilt.

Jefferson had long contemplated a botanical garden for U.Va., and he sought advice from his friend (and frequent Monticello visitor), the Portuguese botanist and diplomat José Francisco Correia da Serra (1750-1823). At Jefferson’s request, probably in July 1820, Correia da Serra drafted a “Plan for a Botanic garden for a public school on the most useful, and less expensive plan.” It was this plan that Jefferson turned to in April 1826 when drafting the specifications for Emmet to follow.

First page of the “Plan for a Botanic garden for a public school,” drafted at Thomas Jefferson’s request by Jose Francisco Correia da Serra ca. 1820. The gift of Joel B. Gardner (Col ’70, Law ’74) (2019-0024)

Jefferson envisioned a four-acre botanical garden—trapezoidal in shape per the site’s awkward boundaries—surrounded by a serpentine brick wall. Inside would be planted approximately 1,500 botanical specimens, carefully selected to serve a range of instructional purposes. Two acres of the sloping hillside above would be turned into a grove planted with specimens of non-native trees.

Conjectural perspective view from within the botanical garden, looking east towards the Rotunda and Anatomical Theater, ca. 1830. Plan by Jenny Jones. From Lily Fox-Bruguiere, “An Uncultivated Legacy: Jefferson’s Botanical Garden at the University of Virginia,” U.Va. Master’s Thesis, 2010 (Masters Arch. Hist. 2010 .F69) (reproduced with permission)

Last October, the original holograph manuscript of Correia da Serra’s plan was generously given by Joel B. Gardner (Col ’70, Law ’74) to the Albert and Shirley small Special Collections Library. In honor of Mr. Gardner’s splendid gift, we have mounted a special exhibition, Jefferson’s Unbuilt Plan for a University Botanical Garden.  On view in our First Floor Gallery through June 29, the exhibition traces through rare books and manuscripts Correia da Serra’s life and botanical activities, his friendship with Jefferson, and Jefferson’s ultimately unsuccessful efforts in his final months to create a botanical garden for U.Va.

Filling in the Gaps of Our History – Archiving Student Life for the Third Century Workshop

This week we are pleased to welcome a guest post by Aasritha S. Natarajan, who is a third year majoring in Biology and Cognitive Science with a minor in History

Imagine being able to document all the works of 900+ CIOs and student organizations regardless of how long they have been on Grounds—documenting the lives of students across centuries, which in turn gives prospective students something to aspire to and something to look forward to being a part of when they join our prestigious community. Unfortunately, only approximately 10% of our student organizations have any archival documentation in the UVA Archives in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. I was curious—why haven’t student organizations archived their records? As part of the UVA Bicentennial-funded Archiving Student Life for the Third Century project, my coworker Jacob Shaw and I began working on outreach to document student life to help expand our collection of records from student organizations, and assess gaps in UVA Archives’ holdings. We soon began to see patterns.

Flyer (1969), Activist Student Organizations records (RG 23/103/1.111). Image by Bethany Anderson.

Why are there so few records from student organizations? One reason could be due to the levels of representation of CIOs and other student groups across Grounds. When I analyzed the data about the UVA Archives’ holdings, I found some interesting patterns in terms of underrepresentation among those student organizations that don’t have records in Special Collections. These groups include minority ethnicity-based CIOs (e.g., the Latinx community, the Asian community, and the African American community), gender-based groups (specifically those that concern women at UVA), and fine arts organizations (e.g., a cappella groups and dance teams), among others. While I cannot entirely say why these groups are underrepresented, I can say that they deserve far more recognition, to say the least.

One reason could be that idea of the word “archive” is misconstrued most of the time. The word “archiving” sounds ancient, obsolete, and inefficient, when it is far from it. In fact, archiving is more relevant than ever, in a world where digital media presents opportunities for one to record their work in social world and, at the same time, to erase their presence whenever one likes. Archiving doesn’t just matter for manuscripts, administrative files, and other physical paper documents; it also matters for digital content and media— that is, DVDs/CDs, social media accounts, websites, online documents, group chats, and audiovisual files. Special Collections staff can help you preserve your digital content as well as your social media content.

So why is it useful, or rather, important, to archive your organization’s records? Well, as I mentioned above, it sets a precedent for future incoming students; students will have something to look up to when they join the CIO or student group of their choice and will be able to have the history of student organizations from multiple perspectives. Furthermore, documenting the aforementioned underrepresented organizations helps represent a far more diverse student body. Archives provide context for how student organizations were run, and how the structure was modified to suit each incoming generation of students. So, without a shadow of a doubt, I highly recommend archiving your organization’s records—in the spirit of our Bicentennial, it helps us imagine what student life could be like for the third century of UVA students.

In the spirit of learning how to archive student organization records, please attend our workshop on April 24th, 5:30 – 6:30pm, where I will be elaborating upon these discrepancies. Jacob and I will be discussing the importance of archiving, and you can learn about donating and preserving your records. Furthermore, you will have the opportunity to hear from students and resident staff from the Albert and Shirley Small Collections Library about how they help preserve the unique history of UVA. Information about this workshop can be found here:

Introducing the Archiving Student Life for the Third Century Project and Workshop

This week we are pleased to welcome a guest post by Jacob Shaw, who is a third year majoring in Economics and Sociology.

I am one of the two archives project assistants for the Archiving Student Life for the Third Century project at the UVA Archives in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. Funded by UVA Bicentennial, the goal of the project is twofold—to document student life both through making past records of student life visible and accessible, and to expand the collection of records from student groups on Grounds today. In regards to the first goal, we have been working on processing new donations, such as records documenting Greek life and organizations like the Jefferson Society, along with reprocessing and rearranging important record groups and collections. To help expand our holdings of contemporary student groups, my coworker Aasritha Natarajan and I have been reaching out to a variety of student groups via email to inform them about the Archives’ initiative, and to see if they are interested in donating their records. To further engage student groups in the archiving process, we will be hosting a workshop in the Rotunda multipurpose room on April 24th, 5:30-6:30 pm, to talk to students about the project, what we do at the UVA Archives, and how they can preserve their records and donate them to the Archives.

Radical Student Union publication, Southern Student Organizing Committee Records, (MSS 11192, Box 13). Image by Bethany Anderson.

While my coworker and I have both worked on the archiving and outreach ends of this project, I have spent most of my time working with documents and records, both processing and reprocessing. The main group of records I have been working with are the Southern Student Organizing Committee records, a large group of documents that has been compiled by several donors.

The Southern Student Organizing Committee (SSOC) records tell a very important and interesting story regarding the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War Era, and issues of domestic economic and social policy all through the lens of student activism, particularly at the University of Virginia. The SSOC was an inter-collegiate organization of students at predominantly white universities in the South whose initial aim was to promote progressive social policy regarding racial equality at their universities. While the group remained true to their aims of racial equality in the era of the Civil Rights Movement, they expanded their activism to anti-Vietnam War efforts, by providing legal information to conscientious objectors of the draft and critiquing a variety of American institutions. Also, the group devoted significant energy to supporting labor movements and pushing back against corporate interests. Looking through the documents, it becomes clear that the SSOC was embedded in an important network of student groups, such as the Students for a Democratic Society and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and their different campus chapters, and taking parts in composite organizations such as the Radical Student Union at the University of Virginia.

Bylaws of the Southern Student Organizing Committee, Southern Student Organizing Committee records (MSS 11192, Box 12). Image by Bethany Anderson.

The importance of the UVA Archives becomes clear when one realizes that the SSOC almost sank into oblivion, at least in terms of their records. According to Gregg L Michel, a UVA graduate student who wrote about student organizing, many of their records were intentionally destroyed after the dissolution of the SSOC. While writing his dissertation on the SSOC he reached out to two UVA alumni who both served as the chairs of the organization (Tom Gardner and Steve Wise), leading to the donation of their records, along with records from other members they knew. The records donated by Gardner and Wise really bring the story of the SSOC to UVA, as these two figures, particularly Gardner, saw the SSOC through the bulk of their Civil Rights and Vietnam activism, along with a variety of projects that incorporated UVA groups beyond just the SSOC, such as the “Virginia Summer Project” and the Radical Student Union.

The writings of Gardner highlight the local aspects of student activism, with essays and memos discussing issues around grounds and critiquing UVA as an institution.

At our upcoming workshop, I will be talking more about the Southern Student Organizing Committee, and leading the participants through an activity using an example of a document from their records. The goal of the activity will be to think about our current university climate through the lens of the SSOC’s documents, thinking about the state of student activism on grounds today, and understanding the role and importance of the Archives in preserving student life.

Participants will also learn about how to preserve and donate their own records and hear from several students and staff from the UVA Library and Special Collections about their projects that relate to preserving history, identity, and student activity!

Thank you for reading and please consider coming to the Rotunda on April 24th at 5:30 pm. You can register and find more information about the workshop here:



Samuel V. Lemley Wins the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest

Samuel V. Lemley displays his 2018 National Student Book Collecting Contest First Prize certificate.

On Friday, October 19, bibliophiles from around the nation gathered at the Library of Congress for the presentation of the 2018 National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest awards. Established in 2005 to recognize bibliophilic excellence among American college and university students, the annual competition is open to the first place winners of the over 40 collegiate book collecting competitions held nationwide. The national contest is jointly administered by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America, the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies, the Grolier Club, and the Library of Congress’s Center for the Book and Rare Books and Special Collections Division.

Samuel V. Lemley discusses his collection of Sicilian imprints at the awards ceremony for the 2018 National Student Book Collecting Contest. Seated behind is awards presenter Mark Dimunation, Chief of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress.

This year’s First Prize winner is U.Va. doctoral candidate in English Samuel V. Lemley, whose entry, Biblioteca Genealogica: Sicilian Printing, 1704-1893, won the 52nd U.Va. Student Book Collecting Contest held earlier this year.  Several U.Va. Contest winners have won national awards in previous years, but Sam is the first to claim the top prize.  In addition to a cash award of $2,500, he will receive a year’s membership in the Grolier Club, the nation’s leading bibliophilic society.  Students from the University of Kansas, Harvard University, and Washington University also received national awards at the awards presentation in the Library of Congress’s Montpelier Room.

Visitors under Grounds may recall seeing highlights from Sam’s collection on display last spring in the First Floor corridor leading to the Special Collections Reading Room.  Special Collections was pleased to honor the winners of the 52nd U.Va. Student Book Collecting Contest–Samuel V. Lemley, James P. Ascher, and Philip M. Tan–by hosting an exhibition drawn from their collections.

The U.Va. Student Book Collecting Contest is one of many activities undertaken by the Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia.  Watch their website for news of the 53rd U.Va. Student Book Collecting Contest!