The Virginia Museum of History & Culture announced the 2023 Commonwealth History Fund grant winners including 11 organizations throughout Virginia. A total of $401,206 is being awarded to support history preservation and education work taking place across the state.
Fort Harrison in Dayton, the historic home of Daniel Harrison, one of the Shenandoah Valley’s earliest settlers, was one of the grant recipients.
In partnership with Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources, each year the Commonwealth History Fund awards grants to history organizations and projects throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.
There are several key selection criteria to be considered for the grants, including the significance of the project or resource, its impact on its community and the Commonwealth, the focus on historically underrepresented topics and communities, and the need for funding and urgency of the project.
“The Commonwealth History Fund has quickly become one of the best tools we have as your state history museum to support history education and preservation efforts taking place in your local community,” said VMHC President & CEO Jamie Bosket. “We are so very thankful for this opportunity to invest in the work of our fellow history organizations, now and for years to come.”
One of the largest initiatives of its kind, the Commonwealth History Fund is expected to award up to $2 million over its first five years.
In 2022, the VMHC awarded $402,500 to fellow history organizations. Funds may be used for a variety of purposes including preservation, publications, artifact acquisition, research, conservation of artifacts and educational programming.
Eligible recipients include Virginia non-profits, educational institutions, and state recognized Virginia Indian tribes. The Fund was made possible through the generosity of Dominion Energy and others.
“This second round of grants will make possible an impressive and impactful group of projects, each of which will help to preserve a site or story associated with Virginia’s rich history,” said Julia Langan, Director of DHR.
2023 History Fund grant recipients include:
- Fort Harrison, Inc. (Dayton): Unearthing Fort Harrison’s Diverse Cultures- Fort Harrison is the historic home of home of Daniel Harrison, one of the Shenandoah Valley’s earliest settlers. This important archaeological research and documentation project promises significant understanding about Fort Harrison’s grounds and the adjacent Koogler pastureland with subsequent scientific analysis and reporting. Findings will add immeasurably to what is known about the Harrisons, early valley culture, Native Americans, and African Americans—and their intersecting lives to illustrate a more complete and accurate history of the central Shenandoah Valley.
- Virginia Nottoway Indian Circle & Square Foundation (Portsmouth): Virginia Nottaway Indian Circle & Square Foundation Property Acquisition – Phase 1- Funding will allow the Tribe to purchase the property they currently lease to cement their place in history, while also providing a safe and secure building for increasing public engagement.
- The Reedville Fishermen’s Museum (Reedville): Preserving the William Walker House, a 19th Century Chesapeake Bay Waterman’s Cottage- The mission of the Reedville Fishermen’s Museum is to protect and share the maritime history of Reedville and the lower Chesapeake Bay. Built in 1875, the William Walker House is the oldest extant house in the working fishing village of historic Reedville, Virginia. This project consists of several fundamental phases for the long-term preservation of this historic house.
- Afro-American Historical Association of Fauquier County (The Plains): Know Their Names: Phase II- Funding will be used to focus on researching, documenting, and abstracting 61 names of enslaved individuals listed in Chief Justice John Marshall’s estate papers along with documenting the enslaved individuals who lived and worked at the Oak Spring Garden site in Fauquier, formerly Rokeby owned by Nathan Loughborough and Little Oak Spring owned by Robert Fletcher.
- Mattaponi Indian Tribe and Reservation Petition (West Point): Mattaponi Restoration: Supporting Tribal Sovereignty through Archival Research- The Mattaponi Indian Tribe is currently seeking sovereignty through the Federal Acknowledgment process. These funds will allow the MIT to hire a part-time researcher to visit archival repositories, digitize and organize any historical documents collected, and communicate these findings to the tribal community and larger public through updates to Tribe’s website.
- Lincoln Preservation Foundation (Lincoln): The Saving Grace Project: Roof Reconstruction at the Grace Heritage Site – Originally known as Grace Methodist Episcopal Church, the Grace Heritage Site represents a significant social, religious, cultural, and racial chapter in Loudoun County’s past. This project will eliminate the threats of water damage and structural deterioration at the roof line, mitigate insect infestation and rot, and provide safe accessibility to the building, allowing for other important interior restoration work to begin.
- National D-Day Memorial Foundation (Bedford): Accounting for the Untold Stories of WWII- This project will utilize an array of immersive content to tell the often-overlooked stories of the service and sacrifice of African Americans during WWII, as well as women in general who contributed to the war effort overseas.
- Montgomery Museum of Art and History (Christiansburg): Telling the Stories of Virginia’s Appalachia: Preservation and Digitization Lab- Funding will support the rehabilitation of the museum’s new, larger facility and fully equip spaces crucial to the mission of preserving and presenting the history and cultural heritage of Appalachian Virginia.
- Fluvanna Historical Society (Palmyra): The Words They Left Behind Them: Legacies of Bremo- Funding will be used to develop a new exhibition featuring voices of those enslaved at historic Bremo, as well as plantation owner John Hartwell Cocke.
- George Mason’s Gunston Hall (Mason Neck): Native Peoples: Connecting Past and Present- Funding will be used to support research to build a greater scholarly understanding of the pre-colonial inhabitants who once lived on and around current-day Gunston Hall, in particular the Native people known variously as the Doeg, the Taux, and the Myompse.
- Woodland Restoration Foundation (Henrico): Woodland Cemetery Chapel Renovation- The Woodland Restoration Foundation’s mission is to restore the Historic African American Cemetery, located in the East Highland Park neighborhood of Richmond, to a condition that shows dignity and respect to all that are interred there. This project will provide substantial retrofitting of the property’s nonfunctional septic system and drain field to support a bathroom in the chapel building to serve visitors and volunteers, in accordance with code requirements.
The VMHC will receive applications for funding for its third annual grant cycle Oct. 1-31. Awards will be announced in early 2024.
More information on the Commonwealth History Fund can be found at VirginiaHistory.org/HistoryFund.