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‘200 Years, 200 Stories’ celebrates Library of Virginia’s bicentennial

Rebecca Barnabi
Courtesy of the Library of Virginia.

The Library of Virginia will celebrate 200 years in 2023 with an exhibition highlighting the narratives of 200 Virginians.

From Jan. 24 to Oct. 28, 2023, “200 Years, 200 Stories” will be on display to share the library’s collection and reflect on the stories of Virginia.

The library, founded Jan. 24, 1823, according to a press release, organizes, cares for and manages the Commonwealth’s growing collection of books and official records, including records from the early colonial period of the United States.

The collection contains 2 million books, newspapers, maps, prints and photographs.

“We’ve been fortunate to play such an important role in preserving Virginia’s history and culture for two centuries,” Librarian of Virginia Dr. Sandra Treadway said in the press release. “This exhibition provides a great opportunity to educate the public about the significance of our collections and engage them in exploring the past while reflecting on how it connects to the present and our next century.”

Virginians from all backgrounds are highlighted in the exhibition: heroes and villains, the famous and infamous, the powerful and the powerless. Stories include Ethel Bailey Furman, one of the first Black female architects in Virginia; David Martin, founder of the Martin Agency and creator of the famed tagline “Virginia is for Lovers”; Chinese immigrant Ow Chuck Sam, who became a naturalized citizen and served in the armed forces during World War II.

History and art specialist Susan Glasser was guest curator of the exhibition.

“We want exhibition visitors to experience the joy of discovery felt by our patrons every day when they encounter the treasures within our collections,” Dr. Greg Kimball, the Library’s director of public services and outreach, said in the press release.

The library’s lobby is the starting point of the exhibition with montages of individuals featured in the stories, a large map of Virginia on the lobby floor identifying the locations of our featured individuals, and an interactive kiosk for visitors to explore the evolution of the Library’s physical site or enjoy a look at the institution’s internal workings.

Another interactive kiosk greets visitors in the Exhibition Gallery, where the stories of 200 Virginians are searchable by themes and location, while “discovery drawers” allow visitors to explore ephemera collections with items such as travel brochures, posters and more.

Several key events and initiatives are also planned to celebrate the Library’s bicentennial in 2023. The Library of Virginia is in downtown Richmond near Capitol Square at 800 East Broad Street.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.