Saving an American Treasure: The Conservation, Digitization, and Enhanced Online Access to the Papers of John Randolph of Roanoke

University of Virginia Library receives $50,000 Save America’s Treasures Grant to Conserve Papers of John Randolph of Roanoke

March 2008

The University of Virginia Library announced today that it has been awarded a $50,000 Save America’s Treasures Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to preserve the Papers of John Randolph of Roanoke.

The Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia holds the largest collection of letters and documents pertaining to John Randolph of Roanoke, consisting of some 800 items.  Randolph served as a U.S. Congressman from Southwest Virginia almost continuously from 1799 until his death in 1833.  He was one of the key spokesmen for “Jeffersonian Democracy,” the set of political goals that dominated the First Party System from around 1800 until the early 1820s.  Smaller collections of Randolph materials are held at the Library of Congress, the Library of Virginia, and the Virginia Historical Society and Princeton University, and the College of William and Mary.

Support from the Save America’s Treasures Grant will assure the long-term availability of the Papers of John Randolph of Roanoke by providing conservation treatment to remove the deteriorating Barrow lamination from 430 manuscripts – over half of the items in the collection. For over three decades from the late 1930s to the early 1970s, important documents from the Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia were routinely sent to Barrow’s restoration shop at the Virginia Historical Society and later his Barrow Research Laboratory at the Library of Virginia.

“These Barrow laminated materials now pose a tremendous preservation problem in our collections,” said Holly Robertson, project coordinator. “Thousands of our most nationally significant documents were laminated via the Barrow process, wherein documents were heat laminated between thin sheets of cellulose acetate film.”  After conservation treatment, the Papers of John Randolph of Roanoke will be transcribed and digitized to allow researchers greater access to this nationally significant collection.

In 2007, Save America’s Treasures received 340 grant applications from eligible federal agencies; state, local, and tribal governments; and nonprofit organizations.  Over $7.6 million in federal competitive grants were awarded to 31 projects that were deemed nationally significant, demonstrated an urgent preservation need, made the case as to how they will address the threat, and demonstrated the likely availability of non-federal matching funds.  The University of Virginia Library is the only agency in Virginia to receive national recognition from the Save America’s Treasures program in 2007.

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Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library