Virginia—Shenandoah Valley–Augusta County Historical Society (Collecting, preserving, and educating about the history of Augusta County, Staunton, and Waynesboro)
The Augusta County Historical Society is located on the third floor of the R.R. Smith Center for History and Art in downtown Staunton, Va. The society operates an exhibit gallery on the first floor of the building.
20 S. New Street, Staunton, VA 24401
Mailing address: P.O. Box 686, Staunton, VA 24402
County: Augusta County (includes the independent cities of Staunton and Waynesboro)
Augusta was founded in 1738 from Orange County. At that time its boundaries stood at the Mississippi River and it encompassed part of Pennsylvania including present-day Pittsburgh.
Region: Upper Shenandoah Valley
Local, state, or national records: The research library and collection is focused on the history of the Upper Shenandoah Valley, although there are materials relating to the greater Augusta County boundaries in the 18th century when the county stretched to the Mississippi River, particularly from the Pittsburgh area as well as Southwest Virginia. There are some books in the collection relating to counties in Virginia outside of the Shenandoah Valley.
Open: The historical society office and archives are open to the public on a limited regular basis at this time: Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 9 a.m.-noon. You may visit and conduct research at other times by making an appointment either by calling or emailing. The society is in the process of training volunteers so that the archives and research library can be accessed by researchers on a more regular basis.
Library, Archives, Special Collections, or Repository: The society has been actively collecting and preserving books, archives, and artifacts since its founding in 1964. For the last 10 years the society has been located in the restored 19th-century railroad hotel now known as the R.R. Smith Center for History and Art. The archives are now stored in a climate-controlled area and are being actively catalogued in the museum software program PastPerfect by an Archives Committee directed by the ACHS Archivist and Associate Archivist. No items, including library books, can be removed from the ACHS office.
Be Prepared: A fee of 25 cents a copy for letter-sized copies and 50 cents a copy for legal size and larger copies will be charged. You may bring you own scanners and cameras to make copies of materials at no charge. Scanning might be prohibited if the item is too fragile to be placed on a scanner.
–The library has a microfilm reader and some of its records are on microfilm. However, there is no means of making copies from the machine. You should be prepared to take notes from the microfilm.
Planning ahead: The society has published a research journal, the Augusta Bulletin, since 1964. The index to the entire series of Bulletins will be made available on line as well so that researchers will know what articles they might want to read. The entire run of Bulletins is available in the society research library. The articles include anything related to area history, genealogy, architecture, and archaeology. The journal was published twice yearly until 1999 and then once a year since that time. The annual journal is usually about 200 pages in length.
–Society staff and volunteers will conduct a limited number of research requests. Fees include photocopy costs, postage, and a fee of $15 per hour.
–All searchable indices are available on the computer in the society library as well.
Holdings: The society has several thousand individual collections in its archives. Some collections contain only a few items such as a letter or a diary while others are many Hollinger boxes in size. Many have a catalog number and an entry into the database, but the collection remains unprocessed meaning that the scope of the collection remains to be discovered by the researcher!! There are many family collections as well as many club records – scouting groups, women’s clubs, farmers clubs, the Welcome Wagon, and others – that have been placed in the society when those clubs were disbanded. There are also records from certain public agencies that no longer exist such as the District Home (formerly called the Poor Farm). There are two extensive collections associated with Dr. Joseph DeJarnette, the longest-serving superintendent of Staunton’s Western State Hospital who has come to be quite a controversial figure in history.
–The society has an uncatalogued research library of several thousand volumes, focused very specifically on Augusta County and the Shenandoah Valley with some related works pertaining to Pennsylvania and overall Virginia and social history.
–The society has a limited number of three-dimensional artifacts related to local history, including some textiles as well as memorabilia from organizations such as the Stonewall Brigade Band and the now-defunct Staunton Military Academy.
–The society has several extensive photographic collections including the Margo Kent (Portrait Studio) collection, the Hamrick Collection (mostly Staunton), and the Coffman Collection (mostly northern Augusta County) that researchers might find useful.
–The society has miscellaneous copies of area newspapers from various time periods (see the collections database) as well as the complete run (and accompanying original photographs) from the local monthly newspaper, Augusta Country, that was published in the 1990s and included a number of historic articles and human interest stories of local individuals.
–The society has several oversize maps, including originals from Jedediah Hotchkiss’s Augusta County map and the original of the Hotchkiss/Waddell 1885 atlas of Augusta County.