News, announcements, updates, and happenings in the UVA Library

Building a sustainable future

By Amber Lautigar Reichert | Thu, 03/09/2023 - 16:54

The Library Sustainability Working Group created a Sustainability Plan this year to support the University’s goals to “advance sustainability leadership and impact by incorporating environmental, economic, and equity considerations in decision-making” by 2030. The core group was made up of staff with a passion for sustainability representing various perspectives and expertise.

Some of the 325 solar panels on the roof of Clemons Library.

The mission of the working group was to create a plan to “partner with the University and broader community to better steward our resources; collaborate in sustainability education, research, and outreach; and act responsibly within our environment and our community.” The Library, with connections to nearly every academic and administrative office on Grounds, has a unique opportunity to advocate for change. Library staff have indicated a strong desire to see changes that make a long-term impact not just within the Library, but in the many University functions and services with which they interact.

The LSWG did extensive research to develop the Sustainability Plan. The group collaborated with both the UVA Office for Sustainability and UVA Facilities Management to access water consumption and waste production data; they reviewed previous sustainability work done at the Library and studied other academic libraries’ sustainability plans; and they gathered input from stakeholders. Because sustainability is inextricably tied to equity, the Library Inclusive Excellence plan also informed the development of the Sustainability Plan. The plan states: “Such work must be done with an equity lens, and with the awareness that climate change has drastically more impact on local and global communities that are already threatened by racial inequities.”

The LSWG Sustainability Plan has resulted in strategic sustainability goals with deliverables and a timeframe for execution and evaluation of success. Goals include reducing energy consumption in Library spaces, reducing potable water consumption, performing a waste audit to decrease use of paper products

and minimize waste, converting Library vehicles away from fossil fuel, working with vendors who have sustainable practices, strengthening support for sustainability research, and advocating for sustainability across Grounds by supporting initiatives like open access and open educational resources.

A permanent Sustainability Committee will be appointed to coordinate, measure, and report on progress toward the goals of the Sustainability Plan. “The Library has had a long-standing commitment to sustainability,” Carla Lee, the Deputy University Librarian states. “This group was able to build on the excellent work of the Green Community formed in 2006. We’ve seen great commitment on an individual and Library basis, and we look forward to harnessing that commitment to achieve the 2030 goals.”

This story originally appeared in the Library’s Annual Report for FY 2022-23. Download the full PDF to read more.

The UVA main library construction site. In the foreground are two cisterns that will collect rainwater from the main library roof.
Two massive cisterns installed under Nameless Field that will collect rainwater from the roof of the new main library for use in the nearby Newcomb Road HVAC chiller plants. The cisterns are expected to collect at least 6,000 gallons of water yearly.


This Women’s History Month, explore the Collective Biographies of Women

By Molly Minturn | Tue, 03/07/2023 - 12:13


Guest post by Cecelia Parks, Undergraduate Student Success Librarian.

For Women’s History Month, we are highlighting the Collective Biographies of Women, a digital humanities project led by Alison Booth, Professor of English and Academic Director of the Scholars’ Lab. You can access the Collective Biographies of Women here.

Below, Booth answers questions about this massive project, which serves as a database of historical women as well as an annotated bibliography of more than 1200 books.

Collective Biographies of Women page


Q. How would you describe the Collective Biographies of Women (CBW) project?

Joan of Arc
                      Joan of Arc

A. The Collective Biographies of Women (CBW) project began with my work on a book, How to Make It as a Woman (University of Chicago Press, 2004). With the help of many graduate research assistants, I assembled an annotated bibliography of more than 1200 English-language books of three or more short, factual life stories about women. The former E-text Center and then the Scholars’ Lab helped me design and build an online bibliography, and with a fellowship from the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, we created a database. It is not a repository of the texts; each collection record in the database is linked to WorldCat and HathiTrust if possible.

The biographies often are skillfully written and curious. Joan of Arc is the all-time favorite subject, according to CBW, with a short biography in 69 different books; but there are many women in war, saints, political leaders, Frenchwomen, all kinds of women overlapping with Joan of Arc’s types. About two-thirds of the subjects are one-offs, some of them so obscure we haven’t located an obituary or other source. I don’t agree with the values of these books, whose authors were confident of the superiority of white, Euro-American, Christian culture, but we can see the purposes they served and recover a rich storehouse of women’s history and changing mores.

Q. How did you become interested in collective biographies of women?

A. I was contributing an essay on short biographies of Queen Victoria, who was gaining scholarly attention in the 1990s, and I had published an article on the pioneering art historian, Anna Jameson. Jameson had published a collection called Female Sovereigns and I needed to know, how many of this sort of book were there?

I just can’t let go of how many versions of women’s lives were circulating well before the start of women’s studies in universities. We’re familiar with the saying, “well-behaved women seldom make history,” now the title of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s book. I say, “good” women often made history, and, if you believe their biographers, were good housekeepers and mothers, too. Even contemporary feminist scholars assumed that printed accounts only detailed lives of a few notorious or high-ranked figures, and my research with CBW shows a different perspective.

Q. How do you use the Collective Biographies of Women in your own research?

A. I’m generally working on something called prosopography — roughly, a series of parallel lives to make an argument about a group identity, such as a nation or a minority. I have relied on CBW data such as occupational types or networks of tables of contents for many conference papers and keynotes and over a dozen articles and book chapters. I continue to work with graduate students, undergraduate students, and UVA Library staff to continue to develop the CBW project to make it more usable and highlight different minority groups within the biographies.

What are we trying to find out? Broadly, we use the CBW as a tool to categorize and rediscover historical women and their surprising feats, including rescuing passengers from shipwreck and winning a prize for sculpture, who are linked to other resources such as Wikipedia and SNAC (Social Networks and Archival Context). We also want to document the way biographies of different types of women are constructed, using an XML schema on a sample corpus. Narrative elements in CBW include spatial data, and we have experimented with mapping events in the lives as well as the publications.

Q. What would you like to highlight from the Collective Biographies of Women ?

Mary Mcleod Bethune
         Mary Mcleod Bethune

A. You can see how collective biographies resemble the lists of biographies that are put online during Black or Women’s History Month. Over the years, we have focused on the 429 African American women whose biographies are included in CBW texts. We see that the 1890s brought a surge in collective biographies of Black women, followed by renewed advocacy in the 1930s and 1970s.

Some are very well known, such as Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955) (see the SNAC biography), who has twelve CBW chapters. Anyone researching this remarkable political and educational leader would find not only the archives through SNAC but also the evidence of changing versions of her life across the 20th century in comparison to other subjects in the same books.

In “Lifting as They Climb” by Elizabeth Lindsay Davis (1933), a “sibling” or subject in the same content list as Bethune, Mrs. Amelia Tolbert, now has a SNAC record that is only populated by a link to CBW. Without dedicating more time to researching the one-off mention of this person, we are constrained by copyright and have not found the text to fill in more information, but she has a record in CBW just like her more well-known counterparts.

Though the books featured in CBW were published between 1830 and 1940, such books have been published for many centuries and continue to be popular today. Here are a few collective biographies of women published in recent years and available through the UVA Library:

“Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science – and the World”
(2015), by Rachel Swaby

Rachel Swaby profiles 52 female scientists from Nobel Prize winners to less well-known scientists in “Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science—and the World.” This book is a rebuttal to previous coverage of these women that focused on their domestic roles as wives and mothers.

“Almost Famous Women: Stories”
(2015), by Megan Mayhew Bergman

The short stories in Megan Mayhew Bergman’s collection are all based on real historical women who were, as the title suggests, almost famous. Bergman’s stories give them a second chance at fame and shows them in all their human complexity.

What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories
(2017), by Laura Shapiro

Culinary historian Laura Shapiro profiles six women through their relationships with food in “What She Ate.” These women were famous in their time and most continue to be well-known today, but Shapiro provides a different perspective on their lives in this book.

Women’s Maker Program welcomes third cohort of student Residents

By Amber Lautigar Reichert | Tue, 03/07/2023 - 07:40

From Maggie Nunley, Fang Yi, Jenny Coffman, Jennifer Roper, and Bethany Mickel, of the Women’s Maker Program Steering Team.

We’re pleased to announce that the Women’s Maker Program has accepted its third cohort of Residents.

The Women’s Maker Program supports a makerspace program that’s designed to help increase Residents’ confidence and interest in STEM and makerspace technologies, improve their sense of belonging in the field, and better prepare them for future careers in the STEM workforce.

As a result of Resident feedback, the Program recently expanded into two semesters in order to fully meet the needs and interests of the participants. This spring semester, the Residents will begin learning makerspace technologies, design thinking, and growth mindsets. The semester will culminate in a Girls Maker Camp, in partnership with Tech Girls, for local middle school girls. The Camp will be held at the Robertson Media Center and feature a variety of workshops taught by the Women’s Maker Program Residents. In the fall semester, the Residents will have the opportunity to deepen their expertise in makerspace technologies while working in teams to tackle a community project.

To learn more about the work of the Women’s Maker Program and celebrate the accomplishments of the 2023 Residents, register to join us on April 21st from 2:30 - 3:30 p.m. for an end-of-semester showcase. The showcase will be held in Clemons 407 and also online through Zoom.

The Women’s Maker Program has been generously funded by a grant from the Jefferson Trust for the 2021-2023 cohorts. We are grateful to the Jefferson Trust for their support.

Learn more about the program.

Meet the 2023 Women’s Maker Program Residents: 

Gaby Flores (she/her) is from Houston, Texas. Gaby is majoring in aerospace engineering and hopes to contribute to space exploration and attend graduate school in the future.  

Chelsey Ojeda (she/her) is from Amelia County, Virginia, and is interested in civil engineering. She hopes to reduce the environmental footprint within the construction industry and eventually start her own business. At UVA, she is involved in undergrad research and is a Clark Scholar. In her free time, she dabbles in photography and botany, but mainly enjoys being outdoors.  

Padma Lim (she/her) is from Hong Kong. Padma is a systems engineering major. She wants to be more compassionate, courageous, and strong so that she can help more people and give back to society. Padma also hopes that she can inspire others (such as those who are minorities and women) to be passionate about STEM and provide opportunities for them to realize their dreams.

Elizabeth Armstrong, who is from Portland, Oregon, is double majoring in aerospace and mechanical engineering. She is unsure what job she wants in the future but hopes to attend graduate school and conduct research on alternative fuel sources.  

Alicyn Stewart was born and raised in Leesburg, Virginia. She hopes to double major in biochemistry and French on the pre-medical track. She currently is interested in pursuing toxicology but is open to whatever the future has in store for her.  

Sarah Francis is from Richmond, Virginia. Sarah is a first-year undergraduate at UVA who plans to major in computer science with a specialization in cybersecurity. In the future, Sarah hopes to work as a software developer and have a role in people management.

Jaiden Murray (she/her) is from Richmond, Virginia. Jaiden plans to major in global public health, on the pre-medical track. She hopes to be a dermatologist, bringing awareness to treating people of color.  

Shanique Morrison (she/her) is from Brooklyn, New York. Her major is electrical engineering and she plans to minor in computer science. In the future, Shanique hopes to contribute to astronomical discoveries, specifically as an electrical engineer at NASA.

UVA Library’s Aperio to begin publishing International Journal of First Aid Education

By Amber Lautigar Reichert | Mon, 03/06/2023 - 14:52

Guest post from Dave Ghamandi, Open Publishing Librarian and Managing Editor of Aperio:

The International Journal of First Aid Education and UVA Library are pleased to announce that IJFAE has joined Aperio, the UVA Library-led open access press.

The IJFAE publishes peer-reviewed articles to advance the knowledge and practices of those involved in first aid and first aid education. The journal aims to increase the helping behaviors of first aid responders during health emergencies and to strengthen community resilience. All articles are made freely available online once they have completed the peer review and production process.

IJFAE’s move to publishing through Aperio coincides with two UVA School of Medicine faculty joining the editorial team: Associate Professors of Emergency Medicine Nathan Charlton, MD and Amita Sudhir, MD are new section editors. They join Editor-in-Chief Dr. Jeffrey Pellegrino and Senior Editor Emily Oliver.

The journal is founded on the Chain of Survival Behaviors (a union of five domains that increases a person’s chance of surviving a health emergency), making it relevant to everyone, regardless of context or medical training. It provides a voice for evidence across all aspects of emergency response, self-care, and public health, supporting educators and training organizations to develop confident, competent, and willing responders.

Aperio, a service of UVA Library, publishes discipline-leading, high-quality open access journals. By removing price and permission barriers, Aperio increases the dissemination, visibility, accessibility, and impact of research and scholarship across disciplines, while providing its journals with a stable and committed institutional home.

“The commitment of UVA Library to open access research coincides with our vision of democratizing first aid education to empower people to be healthier and safer, and we’re excited to push out the great work being done around the globe with this new partnership,” says Pellegrino.

Charlton says, “the International Journal of First Aid Education is an outstanding resource for first aid educators and providers throughout the world. We are delighted to be able to host this journal at the University of Virginia and look forward to expanding the reach and reputation of the journal.” Sudhir added, “Being asked to expand the opportunities for students to create and publish works in the journal internationally will also bring great opportunities for our student researchers across UVA.”

“The ethos of empowering all first responders matches well with Aperio’s goal of increasing access to knowledge for all. As the first journal from medicine and allied sciences in the Aperio portfolio, IJFAE expands the disciplinary scope while strengthening the commitment to the importance of open access publishing,” says Jennifer O’Brien Roper, Director for Digital Strategies and Scholarly Communication.

The International Journal of First Aid Education is the fifth journal in Aperio’s portfolio and is available at The journal remains free for both readers and authors, and past volumes remain available. All articles will continue to be published using a Creative Commons license meaning authors retain their copyright and have the right to attribution.

Learn more about Aperio, the University of Virginia’s open access press

UVA proxy server address change

By Amber Lautigar Reichert | Fri, 03/03/2023 - 10:05

UVA has made a change in the way it serves proxy URLs for electronic resources. If you access electronic resources directly through links on the Library website (or through tools like JournalFinder or Databases A-Z), you do not need to take any actions.

If you have bookmarks to electronic resources, you will need to update those bookmarks. Please keep reading to understand how to avoid broken links when the old URLs are removed.

What is happening?

UVA is upgrading the server that enables faculty and students to access Library electronic resources from off Grounds.

The URL for UVA’s proxy server changed from (or to You will need to change all your bookmarks that use the old proxy. For example,


should become


Why should I update my bookmarks?

The old proxy address will continue to work for a short time, but in late spring 2023 the old proxy address will stop working.

If you have bookmarked URLs for electronic resources, you need to update your bookmarks to avoid broken links when the old URLs are removed.

Instructions for updating

You may have just one or you may have dozens of bookmarks that have the old UVA proxy server address.

There are two methods you could use to fix your bookmarks:

  1. In your browser’s bookmark manager, search for “proxy01.its” and “proxy.its”. Replace each of these with “proxy1.library”. OR,
  2. Visit the Library website to get the new address directly. All resources on the Library site are up to date, including Virgo, JournalFinder, and the A-Z Database list.

The changes will finalize in late spring 2023.


Thanks to Library IT and Electronic Resources teams for substantial assistance with this piece.

From scrapbooks to zines, new exhibition shows the power of ‘women making books’

By Molly Minturn | Thu, 03/02/2023 - 10:52


“Women Making Books,” a new exhibition in the First Floor Gallery of the University of Virginia’s Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, opens with Phillis Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral” (1773), the first published book of poetry by an African American. The book’s frontispiece engraving of Wheatley (who was enslaved by a Boston family) sitting at a desk with a quill in hand is likely well known to most English majors; it is believed to be the first portrait in American history of a woman writing.

Annyston Pennington, a UVA English doctoral student who curated “Women Making Books,” said that the Wheatley volume was one of the first objects chosen for inclusion in the exhibition. But as singular and powerful as “Poems on Various Subjects” is, Pennington was struck by the fact that within the book, Wheatley’s poems are prefaced with the words of her enslavers. “What would it look like if Wheatley had had control over every aspect of this book with her name attached?” asked Pennington. What does it look like for a woman to be involved in the printing and the letter setting, in the binding and in experimenting with the book form?”

“Women Making Books” dives into this question, exploring women’s contributions to English and North American bookmaking from the mid-18th to the 21st centuries. While some of the exhibition’s objects are authored by luminaries like Wheatley, Virginia Woolf, and Louisa May Alcott, many of the featured works — private scrapbooks, decorative books of woven hair and pressed flowers, and zines — are by unknown or little-known creators. “We wanted to show how women’s domestic labor, crafting, and private practice made contact with the book form and even served as a precursor to zines, which were historically made to be cheap and easily accessible, and often used to convey countercultural messages,” said Pennington, who works as a curatorial assistant in Special Collections.

The exhibition, which opened earlier this month, runs through June 10, in conjunction with the longstanding British Women Writers Conference, which this year will be hosted by the UVA English Department in late May. The theme of this year’s conference is “Liberties.”

“We hope to tell different stories of female agency when it comes to bookmaking,” said Andy Stauffer, a UVA professor of English and co-curator of the exhibition. “We were drawn to objects that still look like books, but have been productively reimagined, recreated, scrambled, or personalized by women of all different backgrounds,” said Stauffer, who is known for his “Book Traces” project, which catalogs and preserves unique copies of 19th-century books and investigates marginalia, inscriptions, and other historical data within them. “This is a visually beautiful and interesting show; it’s full of unexpected, handmade items that use the format of the book and mess with it in creative ways.”

The exhibition, which contains 23 items, is organized chronologically, starting with Wheatley’s volume of poetry and ending with a 2021 work by artist and UVA alumna Golnar Adili that Pennington says “pushes the boundaries of the book.” Adili’s text, titled She Feels Your Absence Deeply,” is printed on the sides of wooden cubes, reminiscent of children’s alphabet blocks, reminding the viewer that a story can shift, evolve, and be interpreted in many ways.

Take a look below at several objects from the exhibition (with captions derived from the exhibition text), on display through June 10 in the First Floor Gallery of the Small Special Collections Library.

Books containing arrangements of braided hair.

Developing from Victorian hairwork, a phenomenon in which human hair was manipulated into designs inside keepsakes such as brooches, hair albums combine hairwork with the scrapbook. The Lydia J. Ensign hair albums contain 159 locks of hair; many bits are adorned with metallic pins or plaited into designs and labeled with the names of their sources — usually friends or family.


A book containing pressed flowers.

Created by an unknown artist, this “Folk Art Herbarium” album offers a multimedia excursion through the garden — and mind — of a woman in early 20th-century England. Pressed flowers with captions are arranged alongside highly detailed illustrations.


A "flapper" style woman from a magazine ad is featured in this scrapbook.

Carrol T. Mitchell produced multiple issues of tabloid-style magazines, such as this one from 1916, in which matters of fashion, entertainment, and gender are accompanied by both illustrations and magazine clippings.


A zine image of "Beautifully Brown Like Me."

Each element of “Beautifully Brown, Like Me,” a 2018 zine by artist kuwa jasiri Indomela, signals that it is meant to be shared and to spark conversation about anti-Blackness in American art communities.


Text in this "book" is printed on the sides of wooden cubes, which can be arranged to show different images.

Artist and UVA alumna Golnar Adili challenges the book form completely with her work “She Feels Your Absence Deeply.” The text is printed on the sides of wooden cubes, which can be arranged to show different images.


In the news: The Julian Bond Papers

By Molly Minturn | Tue, 02/28/2023 - 11:30


American civil rights leader Julian Bond was known for many things. In 1960 he helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and spent the next decade organizing student protests and voter registration drives across the South. He served in the Georgia legislature, co-founded the Southern Poverty Law Center, and eventually led the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He also taught history at the University of Virginia from 1990 to 2012, leaving his papers to UVA’s Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library.

The Julian Bond Papers contain approximately 47,000 items, including speeches and articles written by Bond, correspondence, campaign materials, academic evaluations, and family papers. Bond donated his papers to the UVA Library in 2005 (he died in 2015). This past month, the collection made the news for different reasons.

UVA Today recently covered an ongoing effort of the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American and African Studies and the Center for Digital Editing. The Julian Bond Papers Project is working to digitize, transcribe, and annotate Bond’s papers and make them freely available to the public. The team has already transcribed more than 10,000 pages, digitized close to 13,000 images, and celebrated its public launch on Feb. 22. “We noticed that the topics he engaged in the speeches — many of them written in the ’70s and ’80s — remain pressing to this very day,” said project director Deborah E. McDowell, a Woodson Institute professor and Alice Griffin Professor of English. Read more about this project, which has made more than 100 of Bond’s speeches accessible online.

Julian Bond surrounded by a group of children in the American South.
Bond (in the center of this photo) helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and organized student protests and voter registration drives across the South. (Courtesy of Julian Bond Papers Project)


Over on Notes from Under Grounds, the blog of the Small Special Collections Library, scholar and book artist Derrais Carter dug into Julian Bond’s papers as part of a larger research project on blaxploitation cinema. A William A. Elwood Civil Rights and African American Studies Fellow, Carter spent days “wading through” Bond’s papers and came to the conclusion that Bond was “an unexpected vector in the 1970s Black popular culture landscape.” To read about Bond’s musical tastes (Melba Moore, Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith) and his 1977 Saturday Night Live hosting gig, check out Carter’s post.

To explore the Julian Bond Papers in person, plan a visit to the Small Special Collections Library.


“Images of ‘Black life, Black joy,’ are immortalized in historic Charlottesville portraits” – from PBS NewsHour

By Amber Lautigar Reichert | Mon, 02/27/2023 - 15:09

A recent story from PBS NewsHour featuring the Library’s “Visions of Progress” exhibition, as well as the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers and other recent work at UVA, begins: 

Black and white photo of a man with a long goatee and a black coat over a pressed white shirt.
Henry Martin

In the middle of the University of Virginia sits a portrait of a man with piercing eyes and a serious countenance, and a story that has long survived its main character. That man is Henry Martin.

The story goes on to tell of Martin’s impeccable reputation, even as descriptions of him were presented in a patronizing manner — as a mere faithful servant to the University.

The “Visions of Progress” exhibition features Henry Martin, larger than life, and many others who were photographed in the Holsinger studio in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  

John Edwin Mason, chief curator of the exhibition, says:

“The university has not always been a good neighbor to the African American community. …  We’ve learned a lot about Charlottesville, its history and the hard side of history. We’ve learned about oppression. We have not learned about Black life, Black joy, Black family, Black churches, Black schools, Black politics, Black style. All of those things have been in the background. And through these portraits, we’re bringing them into the foreground.”

Read the full story or watch the video from PBS NewsHour.

The “Visions of Progress” exhibition remains on view in Harrison/Small during regular hours of operation until June.


Behind-the-camera shot showing John Edwin Mason seated opposite a PBS correspondent in the exhibition room
The PBS Newshour team interviews John Edwin Mason in UVA’s Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library in late January. (Photo courtesy Holly Robertson)
A view of the exhibition room showing large portraits behind John Edwin Mason, who is being interviewed in front of a camera
The PBS Newshour team interviews John Edwin Mason in UVA’s Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library in late January. (Photo courtesy Holly Robertson)


Celebrating Fair Use Week 2023!

By Amber Lautigar Reichert | Thu, 02/23/2023 - 12:54
fair use week | fair dealing week

Every year around this time, libraries, archives, and allied institutions and groups celebrate Fair Use Week, a time to recognize the power and importance of the fair use doctrine in our daily lives. Fair use is the First Amendment safety valve in copyright law, allowing use of in-copyright works without payment or permission when the use serves copyright’s purpose without intruding unfairly on the copyright holder’s commercial prerogatives.

This year we have two features from the University of Virginia Library’s Director of Information Policy, Brandon Butler:

First, a piece cross-posted with Harvard University about copyright (and, specifically, fair use) and its application in cases of artificial intelligence such as ChatGPT and Stable Diffusion.

Read “Fair Use Week 2023: Avoiding copyright literalism and the fairness of computer-generated works.”

Second, and in a totally different realm of human interests, Butler made a guest appearance on “Just Wanna Quilt,” a podcast hosted by quilter and copyright scholar Elizabeth Townsend Gard.

Listen: “Attorney Brandon Butler talks about copyright and fair use”

If you want more on this topic, there’s a substantial collection of essays and articles on the Fair Use Week site, covering topics like fair use myths, the recent Andy Warhol case, and copyright in libraries.

You can also visit The Taper for more Fair Use Week reflections or the Library’s Fair Use page for a brief video and further resources on this subject.


Thanks to Brandon Butler, Director of Information Policy, for assistance on this piece.


Behind serpentine walls: Centering enslaved laborers at UVA

By Amber Lautigar Reichert | Thu, 02/16/2023 - 09:26

This story was originally published as part of the 2021 Annual Report.

Portrait of a black woman in 19th century dress, seated, hands folded in her lap.
Sally Cottrell Cole

In spring of 2020 the Library added to the University’s store of knowledge about the enslaved African Americans who performed work vital to the functioning of UVA in the 19th century. Joining with UVA Landscape Architect Mary Hughes, Chief of Staff of the Division for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Meghan Faulkner, and Assistant Dean and History Professor Kirt von Daacke, a team from the Library conducted research, contributed text, and provided rare images from Special Collections to create a new virtual tour as part of the Walking Tours of Grounds app. The new tour, “Enslaved African Americans at the University of Virginia,” updates a print brochure published earlier by the President’s Commission on Slavery and the University.

The app is part of President Jim Ryan’s initiative to add context to the story of UVA’s past by emphasizing the contributions to University life made by enslaved people. According to team leader Elyse Girard, Executive Director of Library Communications and User Experience, “Access was really at the heart of the creation of this digital tour.” Anyone with internet can use the tour for a view into the world of the enslaved laborers and artisans who excavated the terraced contours of the Lawn in 1817 and literally built the University, laying many thousands of bricks made of clay which they dug from the earth and then molded and fire-hardened in kilns. Viewers can also see how people who were rented to hotelkeepers as property rose from their quarters in basements and outbuildings before daylight every morning to haul water, lay fires, and prepare meals for faculty and students, in many cases laboring behind the high serpentine walls that were constructed to conceal their presence.

View of a lane between the high, red brick, serpentine walls at the University. Trees rise against the sky in the background.
A 1910 postcard showing the original 8-foot height of UVA's serpentine walls, which hid the life and labor of enslaved individuals inside "garden" spaces.

Only 600 names of UVA’s estimated 4,000 enslaved workers are currently known. Among them are husband and wife William and Isabella Gibbons who were divided by enslavement to serve professors in separate households. William Gibbons, a butler, taught himself to read by “observing and listening” to white students. His was a quiet resistance to prohibitions against educating enslaved people. Isabella Gibbons, a domestic servant, likewise risked punishment by teaching their daughter in secret. UVA residence hall Gibbons House is named in their honor.

Identifying marks etched into granite: names, occupations, and horizontal lines that recognize the as-yet-unnamed enslaved laborers who worked in the University.

Free people of color also resisted the social path that whites had mapped out for them. In 1833, seamstress Catherine “Kitty” Foster purchased a little more than two acres which became part of an African American neighborhood known as Canada. An aluminum frame has been erected which casts a shadow tracing the foundation of her house, recovering an idea of the physical space in which people of color lived and worked.

The tour includes a stop at the newly dedicated Memorial to Enslaved Laborers, where hundreds of names of the enslaved at UVA are engraved into the memorial’s innermost ring. Names of enslaved laborers still unknown are represented by slashes etched into the granite of the memorial. Research is ongoing to identify the many individuals not yet recognized, and these “memory marks” serve as placeholders in hopes that the missing names will one day be added.