Mission Statement

The Mary and David Harrison Institute is dedicated to enhancing knowledge and understanding of American history, literature, and culture from its earliest beginnings to the current day, especially through the use of original sources.  By engaging faculty, students, and the public through library programming and outreach, the Institute fosters collaboration and promotes interdisciplinary discourse in its exhibit galleries, study spaces for visiting scholars, seminar rooms, and auditorium. Programming includes exhibit tours, gallery talks, lectures, and symposia, and a visiting scholars program supports primary research associated with the Library’s extensive holdings, especially rare and unique materials held in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library.

Themes of special interest to the Harrison Institute include:

  1. America’s Origins, how interactions between diverse peoples and cultures shaped the emergence of the country and the course of its history;
  2. America and the World, how American culture has influenced, and been transformed by, other cultures; and
  3. Collaborations, how creative partnerships – between writers and editors, writers and translators, writers and painters, scholars and librarians, etc. – have affected the development of American letters and art.

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