Letter from the President
Saving the Not-So-Distant Past
By Charles F. Bryan, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer
Many of you remember the exhibition we mounted some years ago called V for Virginia: The Commonwealth at War. More
recently, you may have read about our creation of the Reynolds Center for Virginia Business History. And next year you
certainly will be hearing about an exhibition to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case, Brown
v. Board of Education. What do these have in common? They represent the most critical themes in our history during
the century just ended—the transformative power of World War II, the growth of the modern industrial and
postindustrial economy, and the revolution in society created by the civil rights movement. Overlapping in chronology,
these great forces altered Virginia forever.
In order to tell the story of modern Virginia well, we need to place even more emphasis on these three themes. And
that means collecting the evidence of that history before it slips away. It has always seemed that recent history gets
neglected. And that's certainly true of the twentieth century. But it is nevertheless essential that we at the VHS,
as the custodians of our state's past, strive to build our holdings of letters, photographs, books, and artifacts
that illuminate these three driving forces of twentieth-century life.
As a result, the VHS must rely as never before on its members—both current members and an ever-increasing flow
of new ones. We need you for your financial support, which is absolutely essential for success. We also rely on you for
gifts of the artifacts and documents that enable historians to bring our state's history alive. A wonderful example came
to us from Julia Nixon, who donated World War II-era issues of The Blender, the company newsletter from a
DuPont facility in Martinsville, at the time the world's largest nylon plant. Through the words of workers
themselves, this seemingly modest publication tells a dramatic story of the revolutionary effects of the
war and how industry and big business transformed one section of Virginia.
Sources like The Blender can help us tell the larger story of the twentieth century, now fast receding into the past.
Your continued generous gifts to build our collections will make that possible. In my next column, Iíll talk about plans
for the new wing to house these ever-growing collections.
Posted August 2003
• Letter archive
• Charles F. Bryan, Jr. biography