Virginia is the birthplace of our nation, and its state library, the Library of Virginia, was created in 1823 as a repository for all of its original documents and manuscripts, dating back to Jamestown’s founding in 1607. While the actual library is closed through at least March 29th due to the current COVID-19 health crisis, the Library’s online resources are available and quite extensive. These resources are the perfect supplement to your child’s homework during this time of school closures.
For Virginia residents, it is easy to set up an account online and obtain a library card. Some resources do not need a card to view so be sure to check out the links below no matter where you live!
Some of my favorite online resources for kids are:
- Library of Virginia’s page on Google Arts and Culture: This site allows you to explore, zoom in, and focus on many of the artifacts in the Library’s files.
- Document Bank: This online database contains pictures of some of America’s most historic documents and includes suggested questions to help kids understand what they are seeing.
- Civil War resources: With Virginia serving as the Capital of the Confederacy, the Library has extensive primary sources from the Civil War time period.
- Newspapers: One of the best primary sources for your teenager’s term papers!
If your older teens are looking for a way to give back or learn more about history during this time of staying home, check out the Library’s Making History: Transcribe project. This project asks the public for help in transcribing important documents for the Library. This could possibly even count towards your teen’s volunteer hours, which are hard to come by during this time of self distancing (check with your child’s teacher). Look for more details coming tomorrow in a blog post from the Library here and see transcription tips here. What a fun and unique way to earn volunteer hours!
Even though the Library is currently closed, I encourage you to plan a visit with your kids when it reopens. The Library is located in downtown Richmond, close to many of the other historical sites I have covered. After going through security, walk through the cavernous main entry to the exhibit space, located at the back of the Library.
Through December 5, 2020, the exhibit, “We Demand: Women’s Suffrage in Virginia,” is on display.
This exhibit has artifacts, clothing, banners, and other important items from Virginia’s fight for women’s suffrage.
From displays about the Virginia women who founded and worked for the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia, including Adèle Clark, Maggie L. Walker, and Lila Valentine, to the women who were anti-suffragists, the displays are interesting and important for all to see. It is hard to imagine that it was only 100 years ago that women had to fight for the right to vote!
I especially loved the “Votes for Women” teapot and cup!
The short movie of the suffragists’ quotes and writings is excellent.
The exhibition continues outside the exhibit with two displays.
Don’t forget to check out the exhibit’s online resources, including a coloring book for kids!
Head upstairs to complete the tour with the “Unfinished Business” exhibit, located in the Virginia Authors Collection room (located to the right as you walk up the stairs).
The Library also has an extensive reading room and archive room. While these rooms are for adults only, teens working on a school or genealogy project are welcome. See this link for more rules and details.
Before you leave, don’t miss the Library’s wonderful store, called The Virginia Shop. Located at the entrance/exit, this store has many books, toys, and Virginia souvenirs. The children’s section is wonderfully curated and has lots of unique and fun items.
The Library of Virginia is a great and useful resource, both in person and online. During this time of hunkering down and school closures, the online resources in particular are helpful and useful. Explore the website with your child and make a plan to visit when the Library reopens!
- Cost: Free
- Recommended: 10 and up
- Tour time: 30 minutes
- Gift shop located onsite
- Transportation: There is a parking garage located underneath the building (entrance northbound from 9th Street and southbound from 8th Street). Don’t forget to take your ticket in for validation. Also accessible by Richmond’s GRTC PULSE bus, Government Center stop.
- Dining options nearby: Pop’s Market on Grace and Secret Sandwich Society
- Nearby attractions include: John Marshall House, Virginia’s Executive Mansion (the oldest continually used governor’s mansion in America), St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (where Jefferson Davis learned of Lee’s retreat), Virginia State Capitol, and The Valentine
- Other nearby special exhibits about the 19th amendment include: The Valentine, Virginia State Capitol, and Virginia Museum of History and Culture
Books to Read:
- 14 and up:
- The Campaign for Woman Suffrage in Virginia
- Story of Virginia
- Changing History: Virginia Women Through Four Centuries
- River City Secrets
- Come August, Come Freedom: The Bellows, the Gallows, and the Black General Gabriel
- Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race
- Ellen Glasgow’s Collected Works
- 10 and up:
- 6 and up: