Current Exhibits

October ’14 – August ’15
Main Floor, Main Exhibit Gallery

“Who shall tell the story?”: Voices of Civil War Virginia

“Who shall tell the story?”: Voices of Civil War Virginia

The Civil War’s impact on the culture, politics, and geography of Virginia cannot be overemphasized: battles ravaged the landscape, blockades and other political maneuvers transformed the economy, and profound regional tensions resulted in the creation of West Virginia. This exhibition seeks to reveal how Virginia was changed by the war, focusing on the voices of those who experienced it. Letters, diaries, scrapbooks, maps, newspapers, songsheets, broadside advertisements, photographs, and physical artifacts drawn from across Special Collections’s rich holdings in the period reveal the lived experience of war.

The exhibition’s title is drawn from a manuscript of Walt Whitman who, soon after witnessing a battle in Virginia, wrote,

Who shall tell the story?…We talk I say of stories of this war—have histories of this war already; and shall have books of full detail, hundreds of them. In printed books, full histories of this war will come. O heavens! What book can give the history of this war?

The war stories in this exhibition include those of Confederate and Union soldiers, working women and war widows, black troops and southern Union sympathizers, enslaved people and prisoners of war, schoolchildren and University of Virginia students, poets and musicians, wounded soldiers and nurses. Diverse and contradictory, this plurality of stories confirms the continuing relevance of Whitman’s question.

Visit the Civil War Exhibition website:  www.library.virginia.edu/civilwarvirginia

Rotunda Exhibit
Main Floor, South Gallery

2014-06-06 09.51.42

We invite you to explore the Rotunda Exhibit in the South Gallery to see artifacts typically on view in the Rotunda and to learn more about University history.

The Rotunda, the centerpiece of the Academical Village and a UNESCO World Heritage site, is closed through Spring 2016. The building, completed in 1826, is undergoing a comprehensive, critically-needed renovation.

Artifacts on display in the South Gallery:

Bust of Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826)

Rotunda Bell
In 1825, Jefferson ordered the casting of this bronze bell. He wanted the bell to be heard across Charlottesville, two miles away. Its ringing awakened students and called them to classes until the bell cracked in 1886. It is one of the few items recovered from the 1895 fire.

Bust of Marquis de Lafayette (1757 – 1834)

Plan of the University of Virginia
A facsimile of the first published view of the University. It depicts the Academical Village—the Rotunda, Pavilions, Lawn, student rooms, gardens, and Ranges—as it stood when the University welcomed its first students in 1825. Peter Maverick executed the engraving in 1822 (revising it in 1825) after a drawing by John Neilson.


Click to see the Thomas Jefferson Galt Statue Installation Time-Lapse Video on YouTube

Statue of Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826)
Alexander Galt (1827 – 1863), a Norfolk, Va., native, completed this life-size statue in 1861. Determined students managed to rescue it from the 1895 Rotunda fire, wrestling it out of the dome room, down a staircase, and out the main door just in time. The statue suffered only minor damage to Jefferson’s cape. The statue has stood at the upper entrance hall of the Rotunda’s main floor in recent times. It will return to the Rotunda after the building’s renovations are complete.



Historical Tours of the University

Provided by the University Guide Service, Historical Tours tell the story of the University of Virginia.  They run approximately an hour and cover the University’s history, from its founding by Thomas Jefferson to its transformation into one of the top universities in the country.

While the Rotunda is undergoing renovations, Historical Tours will begin at the Harrison Institute/Small Special Collections Library.

10am, 11am, and 2pm
Offered daily, January 12 – April 28
except home football game days & when classes are not in session
Tours meet in the South Gallery (on the front porch when the building is closed)
Provided by the University Guide Service. For more information, visit www.uvaguides.org/calendar or call the University Guides at (434) 924-3239.

Permanent Exhibits

Flowerdew Hundred: Unearthing Virginia’s History

Pipe tamper

Main Floor, Permanent Exhibit Gallery

Featuring archaeological artifacts from the University of Virginia’s Flowerdew Hundred Collection, this exhibit presents material evidence of Virginia’s early inhabitants: Native American pottery sherds; arms and armor used to defend the new colony; refined, imported wares from Europe; and American-made goods, including items manufactured by African Americans. The materials from U.Va.’s Special Collections also on display—images from sixteenth- and seventeenth-century maps and books—illustrate the importance of the historical record in the study of material culture.

Visit the Flowerdew Hundred exhibit website.

Declaring Independence: Creating and Re-creating America’s Document

First Floor, Permanent Exhibit Gallery

Declaring Independence exhibitThis exhibit offers highlights of the most comprehensive collection of letters, documents, and early printings of the Declaration of Independence. The exhibition sheds light on not only the writing and signing of the Declaration, but also on its first printing, distribution across the colonies, and future impact on American history. An accompanying documentary film is available for viewing in the gallery.

Visit the Declaring Independence exhibit website.




Exhibits Archive