Frequently asked questions about the VHS library
What resources are included in the VHS collections?
The library of the Virginia Historical Society maintains an extensive collection of published books
and journals, manuscripts, rare books and Confederate imprints, maps, broadsides, and sheet music
related to the history and culture of Virginia.
What resources are available at the VHS for genealogical researchers? What is not available?
Many genealogists consult our extensive collection of published genealogical materials while
conducting genealogical research at the VHS. Others are interested in our manuscript collections, which contain
genealogical notes, family trees, and Bible records. The VHS does NOT have many of the official records
sought by genealogists. County records (including wills, deeds, and marriage bonds), military service records,
church records, Land Office records (patents and grants), and tax records are located at the
Library of Virginia.
For additional information about VHS genealogical collections, research services, and repositories for various
other records, please visit the genealogy section of our website
Does the Virginia Historical Society offer genealogical research services?
Due to the volume of correspondence received by the library, the reference staff is
unable to reply to genealogical inquiries received via email or mail. Researchers interested in obtaining
research assistance should utilize our genealogical research services.
How can I view items listed in the VHS online catalog?
Library materials may be examined in the reading room only. An appointment or prior notification is not needed. Researchers will need to complete a brief registration form. Also, some form of valid government-issued identification (license, passport, identification card) must be presented and photocopied for our records. The collections cannot be viewed without valid identification. Please note: library books and manuscripts are not available in a digital format.
Does the library of the Virginia Historical Society participate in the interlibrary loan program?
The library of the VHS does not lend materials from our book or manuscript collections. All research
materials must be consulted in the reading room. However, researchers are able to request limited photocopies
of portions of published works and manuscript collections for research purposes.
Does the Virginia Historical Society offer photocopying services for researchers who are unable to visit the Society in person?
Photocopying services are available for researchers unable to visit the VHS.
Researchers are able to request limited photocopies
of portions of published works and manuscript collections. We are unable to
copy entire published works, entire manuscript collections, bound volumes in the manuscript
collection, newspapers, or any fragile/sensitive materials. Photocopy request form
How can I request photocopies?
Please send requests via mail (Virginia Historical Society, P.O. Box 7311,
attn: Library, Richmond, Virginia 23221) or online photocopy request form.
Please include 1) a brief description of the item,
2) the manuscript or call number, and 3) page numbers (if possible).
A copy order will be generated and sent to you (via email or mail - please specify), explaining the procedures
for ordering and payment. When the order form and payment are received, your order will receive our prompt
How much do photocopies cost?
Photocopies are $0.25 per exposure. A $15.00 service/shipping and handling
fee is added to each order. If an order exceeds 50 exposures, an additional $15.00 charge
is applied for each lot of 50 exposures thereafter. Members receive a 10% discount on photocopy orders. Become a member
Are digital cameras allowed?
Yes, but flash and sound must be turned off. Also, permission is needed to photograph all unpublished items. You can view and download the policies and permission form online:
• download permission form [PDF - 15k - link opens new window]
What are the procedures for taking digital images in the library reading room?
All photography by library users requires prior approval by the library staff and submission of the permission form.
• download permission form [PDF - 15k - link opens new window]
Permission applies only for personal use and not for publication. The library reserves the right to deny permission because of the condition of the materials, donor or copyright restrictions, or failure to comply with library policies. Guidelines for camera use are also found on the above permission form (2 pages).
What should I do if I am unable to find an item/subject in the catalog?
It is important to try several techniques/searches before assuming the
item you are searching for is not part of the VHS collections. (Hint: Try a keyword search.)
Please remember that the catalog is NOT a database of names and places, but rather an index and guide to the titles and
numerous subjects included in our collection. Furthermore, VHS library staff are constantly adding new records to the
online catalog, as well as converting our existing card catalog to web-based index. If assistance is needed regarding searching, please
contact the reference staff, or call the
VHS library at 804.342.9677 Monday–Saturday from 10–5 EST to speak directly with a reference librarian.
What items are permitted in the library?
The following items are permitted in the reading room: pencil, paper, note cards, legal pad or notebook, one 3-ring binder or one folder, laptop (without case), PDA, cell phone (ringer off), identification, small purse or wallet.
The following items are NOT permitted in the reading room: pens, markers, highlighters, backpacks, briefcases/laptop bags, food, drinks, scanners, coats, umbrellas, large purses or tote bags.
We ask patrons to please store in a locker on the ground floor all personal items that are not permitted in the reading room. If an empty locker is not available, then items may be brought to the reading room and stored at the registration desk. This policy has been implemented to assure the security of your personal belongings as well as the security of our collection.
What resources does the VHS have for researching historic properties in the Richmond area?
Guide to researching a Richmond house