The VHS traditionally has pursued an active program for the acquisition of the records of Virginia's business and commercial enterprises.
In 2001, the Virginia Historical Society, with generous funding from the Richard S. Reynolds Foundation and Alcoa, created the Reynolds Business History Center (RBHC).
The VHS traditionally has pursued an active program for the acquisition of the records of Virginia's business and commercial enterprises. Materials acquired have ranged in date from the late seventeenth through the late twentieth centuries and have represented a diverse range of business enterprises focusing on a wide variety of related commercial, economic, legal, labor, and industrial issues.
From railroad construction and operations, canal building and management, tobacco growing and marketing, and general mercantile operations to paper production, iron manufacture, and investment banking, surviving records cover a broad spectrum of Virginia's past. But despite Virginia's origins as a commercial venture, until 2001 there was no central repository to document the state's four-hundred-year business history and no organization systematically collecting business records.
The RBHC has a two-fold mission. The first component is collecting. The RBHC seeks to acquire company records from important and representative businesses from around the commonwealth. Collections are not limited to paper records but also include oral histories, artifacts, and electronic communications.
Collections are professionally processed, cataloged, preserved, and made available to researchers at the VHS headquarters in Richmond, which has a long history as a research library. The holdings of the RBHC currently consist of more than one hundred collections, including such significant Virginia entities as Branch and Company, Best Products, James River Corporation, Lane Furniture, Reynolds Metals, and A. H. Robins Pharmaceuticals.
The second component of the RBHC is programming. The VHS seeks to create programs for a number of constituencies: scholars, businesspeople, students, and the general public. Programs have included scholarly symposia on business history topics, oral history initiatives to target specific industries or areas, and travel opportunities to visit significant sites associated with Virginia's business history.