Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia


Representation of the Beauty of Nature icon

Representation of the Beauty of Nature
(Online Exhibition)

These colorful illustrations, by Benjamin Henry Latrobe (1764-1820), detail the waterways and natural beauty of Virginia, found within his "Essay on Landscape," a two volume sketchbook (1798-1799). He was particularly fond of the James River and sketched it often within these pages. Best known as a premiere architect; Latrobe was also a naturalist and traveler who studied water, rock formation, vegetation and architecture in a variety of Virginian & European settings. His colorful watercolor & pen & ink illustrations complete with exacting descriptions in legible, neatly done penmanship are engaging and honest. His preference was for natural beauty in a landscape. These images provide excellent visual sources for Virginia landscape & culture at the turn of the eighteenth century.

Wheels of Change icon

Wheels of Change
(Online Exhibition)

Americans took up cycling in record numbers during the latter half of the 19th century. The invention of the safety bicycle, the bicycle form we know today, allowed more people to ride bicycles with ease. Cycling hit its peak during the 1890s and this period is known as the Bicycle Boom. The Bicycle Boom spurred on societal change through manufacturing, increased mobility, and women's reform. This exhibit explores those changes through illustrations featured in Puck Magazine from 1894 to 1898.

Remaking Virginia icon

Remaking Virginia
(July 6, 2015—March 26, 2016)

Marking the end of the 150th commemoration of the American Civil War, Remaking Virginia: Transformation through Emancipation explores how the end of slavery and emancipation affected every Virginian, forcing people to renegotiate and transform their relationships. Remaking Virginia focuses on how African Americans made the change from property to citizens and explores the societal transformation experienced by all Virginians through labor, church, education, families, political rights, military service, and violence.

Remaking Virginia is on view in the Library of Virginia's lobby and gallery, July 6, 2015-March 26, 2016.

Remaking Virginia online exhibition

Wonder of Architecture icon

Wonder of Architecture
(Online Exhibition)

Take a tour of classic components of architecture and the realization of these marvels coming together to create some of the world's most iconic buildings in Wonder of Architecture. The beautiful plates in this exhibit are from Encyclopaedia Londinensis, part of the Library's Rare Book Collection. Compiled by John Wilkes of Milland House between 1810 and 1829, this volume explores the mathematical balance and proportion required for many components of architecture, such as the five classical orders of columns. It also depicts the evolution of architectural forms and components, leading finally to plates depicting iconic structures in Europe. St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Parthenon, and Salisbury Cathedral are just some of the notable architectural wonders that can be found.

Botanica icon

(Online Exhibition)

Take a stroll through our garden! Botanica is an exploration of botanical texts and art through the volumes of the Rare Book Collection at the Library of Virginia. Early herbals which describe plants for their medicinal value (Gerard's Generall Historie of Plantes, 1633 & Salmon's Botanologia: The English Herbal, 1710), textbooks and floras (Elements of Botany by Benjamin Barton Smith, 1804 & Flora Carolinaensis by John Linnaeus Edward Whitridge Shecut, 1806) which study plants scientifically based on their botany and taxonomic relationships. The exhibition also highlights the plant images as art objects that are not only beautiful but portray their subjects faithfully and timelessly.

American Ornithology icon

American Ornithology
(Online Exhibition)

Hand colored engravings of North American birds from American Ornithology by Alexander Wilson (1766-1813). This beautiful set of books, published from 1808 to 1825, is considered the first comprehensive work on American natural history and contains 76 full page illustrations.

To Be Sold icon

To Be Sold
(October 27, 2014—May 30, 2015)

"To Be Sold: Virginia and the American Slave Trade offers a frank exploration of Virginia's role in the business of the second middle passage—the forced relocation of two-thirds of a million African Americans from the Upper South to the Cotton South in the decades before the Civil War. Anchoring the exhibition is a series of images created by English artist Eyre Crowe (1824–1910), who in March 1853 witnessed the proceedings of Richmond's largest business. Crowe turned his sketches and experience into a series of remarkable paintings and engravings that humanized the enslaved and spoke eloquently of the pathos and upheaval of the trade. The story of the American slave trade is one of numbers, but it is also the story of individuals whose families were torn apart and whose lives were forever altered. Please visit To Be Sold: Virginia and the American Slave Trade to view the beta version of our online exhibition.

The March 21 symposium video is available at

Learn about two women caught in the domestic slave trade, visit Out of the Box and

Help transcribe documents from the domestic slave trade at Making History,"

A version of the exhibition is traveling. Please visit for more information.

Mapping Inequality icon

Mapping Inequality
(Online Exhibition)

Where you live makes all the difference, but that difference has a history. The current circumstances of Richmond's neighborhoods have roots in state and federal policies that have had lasting effects on concentrations of poverty and growth, lending patterns, homeownership, and educational outcomes for children. Neighborhoods that received a D grade in the 1950s now have a high concentration of federal housing subsidies and high levels of poverty. Children in these same neighborhoods score lower on SOL tests than their peers in neighborhoods with low poverty rates. During the foreclosure crisis, these neighborhoods featured high rates of default. We can use historic and current maps and data to better understand the connection between public policy and economic development in the Richmond region.

Flora of Virginia icon

Flora of Virginia
(March 17, 2014—September 13, 2014)

Flora of Virginia highlights the botanical exploration of from colonial days through 2012's publication of Flora of Virginia, the first statewide flora published since the 1762 Flora Virginica by Johannes Gronovius. The 2012 book identifies nearly 3,200 plant species native to or naturalized in the commonwealth. Since the colonial period, Virginia's flora has been collected, described, and drawn. As a botanist uses language to describe plant, a botanical artist uses pen, ink, pencil, or watercolor to help the reader visualize a plant.

This exhibition explores the important connection between the science and the art of the Flora and the history of botanical description and illustration.

Flora of Virginia is on view from March 27, 2014 through September 13, 2014.

No Vacancy: Remnants of Virginia's Roadside Culture icon

No Vacancy: Remnants of Virginia's Roadside Culture
(October 15, 2013—February 22, 2014)

The next time you drive along Route 1, glance out the window and look for an old motel. Some are now disguised as antique malls, others are abandoned and exist as haunting reminders of a bygone era, and those still operating don't look as inviting as they may once have appeared. Imagine these tourist cottages and motels in their heyday, however! Bright neon signs flashed "No Vacancy." Families unloaded cars for a night's rest. Hungry travelers ordered hot chicken dinners in the motel's restaurant before turning in for the night.

From October 15, 2013–February 22, 2014, a photography exhibition at the Library of Virginia, “No Vacancy: Remnants of Virginia's Roadside Culture,” focused on a selection of motels and tourist courts found along Virginia's historic Route 1, weaving the individual stories into their historical context. The more than 25 historic and contemporary photographs and accompanying text in the exhibition shed light on historic architectural elements, presented the significance of race and class in the history of travel, and demonstrated how the perception and operation of motels had changed over time. The motels were also explored through an array of ephemeral items including travel guides, postcards, and advertisements.

"No Vacancy" promoted nostalgic memories of family road trips, shared the tales of the Virginians who operated the motels, and inspired us to pay attention to our cultural landscape. From campsites to quaint cottages to sleek modern accommodations, motels tell the story of travel and society in Virginia during the 20th and 21st centuries.

You can now view some of the vintage motel postcards used in the exhibit over on the LVA Pinterest account: