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Civil War-era trunk at Virginia Tech among Top 10 Endangered Artifacts

civil war era trunk
The Virginia Association of Museums this month recognized this Civil War-era trunk from the Corps of Cadets’ museum collection as one of Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts Honorees for 2021. Photo by Shay Barnhart for Virginia Tech.

A Civil War-era trunk is one of a handful of historical objects in the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets museum collection from the birth year of Virginia Tech.

The trunk contains a piece of stationary from the Preston and Olin Institute on which is written “1872” and the initials “W.H.W.”

In 1872, the Preston and Olin Institute was awarded start-up money from the Morrill Land Grant Act to become the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College at Blacksburg. The school opened on Oct. 1, 1872, and today is Virginia Tech.

Not much is known about the trunk or who “W.H.W.” is, said Samantha Riggin, the corps’ museum curator.

The trunk had been displayed in the Corps Museum in the basement of Rasche Hall until that building was demolished in 2013 to make way for Pearson Hall East. The trunk moved from the museum space to the corps offices in Lane Hall and was rediscovered a few months ago.

The Virginia Association of Museums this month recognized the trunk as one of Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts Honorees for 2021, a program that highlights the importance of Virginia museums and the expense and expertise necessary to care for the unique historic and cultural items in their care.

From Jan. 18-27, the public can visit the association’s website to vote for their favorite of the 10 endangered artifacts. The object receiving the most votes will earn $2,000 in conservation funding.

Repairing and preserving the trunk could take upward of $10,000, Riggin said.

This year, Virginia Tech is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding with ongoing celebrations that will extend across the commonwealth, nation, and world.


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