Students and their teacher at the “Bear Mountain Indian Mission School” on the Monacan settlement near Bear Mountain in Amherst County, 1914. Amateur photographer and educational reformer Henry Jackson Davis (1882–1947) took this photo as well as approximately 6,000 others in the early 20th century to document the poor conditions of rural schools in marginalized African-American and Native American communities. The Native Americans had called what is now Central Virginia home for thousands of years before European exploration began in earnest in the late 1500s, Their settlements included villages large and small throughout the Piedmont and the Mountains. Despite the efforts of long-standing Jim Crow-era legislation aimed at denying their existence, the Monacan people managed to preserve their identity and culture. They were at last officially recognized as a Tribal Nation by the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1989, but not by the U.S. Government until 2018. (photo is courtesy of the Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia).
Research, Scholarship, Discovery




Our Research Library is among the very best of local history libraries in the country. It was created by a committee of Historical Society volunteers beginning in the early 1970s, who managed to pull together a unique collection of resources about the history of Charlottesville and Albemarle County. The Library first opened to the public on October 29, 1974, in a renovated basement of our then headquarters at 220 Court Square. Since that time the holdings have grown to include over 6,000 individual volumes, 15,000 pamphlets, 300 historic maps, and close to 1,000 archived manuscript items. The Library continues to receive thousands of visitors every year seeking information about our regional history, including numerous queries related to genealogical research. The Library is now operated in collaboration with the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library system— one of our oldest and most successful partnerships.
Since 1988 the Director of Library Services has been Margaret O’Bryant, who was a volunteer in the years before that. Margaret’s vast knowledge of the history of the region, her attention to detail, her generous and patient spirit have become synonymous with what is best about our organization. We could not be more fortunate to have her here in the Library to welcome our visitors and to assist researchers in their journeys of discovery. Unless otherwise noted on our Calendar, the Library is open Monday through Friday from 9a-5p, and on Saturdays from 10a-1p. Online queries can be submitted by email or by phone (434-296-7294).



We’d also like to extend a sincere thanks to the very special Library and Research Volunteers who continue to give so generously of their time and talents: David Lyster, Eugenia Bibb, Louise Tayloe, Robert Kuhlthau, Bruce Keith, Jana Glenn, Robert Shaw, Lora Fitzgerald, Jane Myers, Patricia Lukas, Michael Dickens, and Robert Tatum.


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