The Archival <em><strong>Collection</strong></em>



The University of Virginia was chartered by the Commonwealth in January 1819. It represented the fulfillment of a decades-long dream of Thomas Jefferson to create a public university free of religious dogma and political restraints: an institution of higher learning that would serve the principles of democracy, not the whims of a specific church or kingdom. The historic core of the University, which Jefferson referred to as an Academical Village, included individual pavilions for each professorship, rooms for over 200 students, multiple dining halls, and the Rotunda, a central library and classroom building. Built on a ridge just west of Charlottesville, the University opened to students on Monday morning March 7, 1825. (photo by Rufus Holsinger, circa 1890, courtesy of the Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia).

Collect, Preserve, Share

In addition to our Library holdings of books, personal manuscripts and historic maps, we are proud to maintain an impressive archival collection of museum artifacts. This unique historic collection includes many thousands of items that help to tell the story of the region:  from papers to portraiture to photographs, clothing, furniture, memorabilia and ephemera, all donated by individuals, families, businesses and organizations throughout Central Virginia. A sample of artifacts from our Collection is shared below. If you’d like to donate an historic item to be preserved in our archive, please get in touch. We look forward to talking with you and helping however we can.

The Rip Payne <strong><em>Collection</em></strong>

Award-winning photographer Russell “Rip” Payne (1917-1990) was active in the Charlottesville area for more than half a century, working as a photojournalist, commercial and wedding photographer and artist. His incredible collection of images totals tens of thousands of prints, negatives and slides. In this photo, three men escape an exploring factory in Crozet, August 4, 1957.

Browns <strong><em>Gifts</em></strong>

Susan Brown Craig donated this historic marble sign to be preserved in our Collection. The “Gifts By Browns” sign was commissioned by her father, J. Nelson Brown, who along with his wife Lois was the founder and proprietor of Brown’s Gifts, a Charlottesville institution from 1931 to 1979. For most of its history the shop was located at the southeast corner of Fourth and East Main, now the site of a bank on the Downtown Mall. The shop was one of Charlottesville’s most popular gift/department stores in the period and emblematic of the mid-century variety store. The “Gifts By Browns” sign was created on marble that had been cut from an original 1920s-era soda fountain. For many years (prior to a devastating fire of 1954) the sign was prominently displayed on the Fourth Street side of the exterior of the building.

The Gallery of <strong><em>Firsts</em></strong>

Artist Frances Brand (1901-1990) spent the last years of her life in Charlottesville, dedicated to working on her amazing “Gallery of Firsts,” a unique collection of 150 individual portraits (donated to our Archive by her family) of men, women, and even children, black and white, rich and poor, all of whom Brand recognized as being heroes in some way: helping to bring progressive change at last to the Old South. Our hope is to create a new museum experience to exhibit all the Brand paintings and celebrate her magnificent and important work. Like Walt Whitman with his poetry in the 19th century, or photographers with their cameras during the Great Depression, Frances Brand powerfully captured with her art a pivotal moment of time in the American story. Her Collection is a national treasure. We are currently seeking title sponsorship to help make this dream a reality. Please do what you can. In this photo, Brand (right) stands before some of her paintings and with some of the subjects whom she celebrated in her work, including Charlottesville Civil Rights leaders Eugene and Lorraine Williams (left).

Vinegar <strong><em>Hill</em></strong>

A unique collection of paintings by Charlottesville artist Doris Collins documents the now-lost Vinegar Hill community before its destruction in the early 1960s. Part of “urban renwal” design, the razing of the heart of the African-American community of Charlottesville remains controversial to this very day. Collins’ work is an important historic record of the homes and businesses that once made up this neighborhood, an entire part of downtown that was so tragically wiped from the landscape.

Timberlake's <strong><em>Drugstore</em></strong>

This cardboard prescription pill box contained “Migraine Tablets” distributed by M. Timberlake Inc., Druggists. The dosage instructions handwritten in ink are somewhat vague, indicating “Dose 1 to 2.” Marshall Timberlake (1879-1946), a native of Albemarle County, opened his Timberlake’s Drugstore in the former location of a People’s National Bank in 1917. The store, including its historic soda fountain, continues to operate in the same location today on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall.

Updike's <strong><em>Token</em></strong>

For more than 50 years beginning in the late 19th century in Charlottesville, the five Updike brothers were leaders in brick manufacturing and masonry. Eston Updike owned and operated his self-named brickyard beginning in 1913 along what is now Cherry Avenue. During the 1910s and 20s Updike issued brass tokens to his employees– valued from 5¢ to $1.50— that could be spent at a company store in the neighborhood (now Fifeville) during the work week or traded for cash on the weekend. Updike brick was used in numerous residential and commercial construction in the City during this period, including projects at the University of Virginia. Updike sold his company in 1925, after which it was renamed the Monticello Brick Company— which became the leading brick maker in the region until it closed in 1942. The City of Charlottesville later acquired much of the former brickyard and pit, which is now the site of Tonsler Park.

Make An Appointment to View an Item


Photographs, prints, paintings, artifacts, clothing, ephemera, and other three-dimensional objects are included in our historic Collection. Items not currently on exhibition are generally available to be viewed by appointment only.

Appointments to view objects in the museum collections must be scheduled by emailing our Administrator: Please explain the exact item you’d like to view and the nature of your research. A non-refundable advance fee of $45 per hour is charged non-members of the Historical Society. That fee includes the appointment with a staff member, any necessary research by staff, pulling and preparing the items for viewing, and returning items to storage. In no case will staff pull more than ten (10) objects per appointment. Viewing appointments are limited to two (2) hours maximum.

Members of the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society are able to view items without charge, per appointment.

All appointments take place at the Charlottesville Center for History & Culture, located at 200 Second Street, N.E., Charlottesville, Va. 22902. Click here to learn more about visiting our building.

Want to <em><strong>work with us?</strong></em>

Are you a company, organization or individual interested in being a title sponsor for one of our programs?