Museum Collection



Collect, Preserve, Share

The Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society’s Museum Collection embodies an important cross-section of the material history of Charlottesville and Albemarle County, spanning more than two hundred years. Much can be learned from objects that people made, used, collected, distributed, and treasured in years past.

What is in the Museum Collection?

The ACHS Museum Collection consists of more than 200 boxes of objects and artifacts related to local Charlottesville and Albemarle County history, including:

  • ceramics, glassware, and pottery
  • textiles, costumes, and jewelry
  • collectibles, souvenirs, and advertising ephemera
  • archaeological artifacts from sites like Rio Hill, the Hessian Barracks, Main Street, and the site of the McIntire Building
  • photographs by local photographers
  • oral history recordings
  • historic documents, prints, and maps
  • oil paintings and framed prints
  • sculptures
  • antique furniture
  • architectural remnants
  • and lots more!

A full collection inventory and cataloging effort is ongoing. A searchable online catalog is not yet available, but ACHS is working toward that goal so we can share our collection more widely with the community.

Where do the objects in the Museum Collection come from?

Since the 1970s, local residents and ACHS members have donated a majority of the artifacts, though increasingly items come to ACHS from all over the country, donated by people who have ties to Charlottesville or Albemarle County, or who have purchased or found local artifacts far afield. Donors frequently express that they wish to return an object to its original place, and in this way ACHS has built a sizable collection of items tied to local history. ACHS does not purchase objects for the Museum Collection nor does it sell deaccessioned objects.

Who manages the Museum Collection?

The ACHS collections manager handles the responsibilities of caring for the Museum Collection: accessioning and inventorying all of the objects, implementing essential preservation measures, storing items following archival best practices, and researching objects for new exhibits.

Why is the Museum Collection important?

The ACHS Museum Collection embodies an important cross-section of the material history of Charlottesville and Albemarle County, spanning more than two hundred years. Much can be learned from objects that people made, used, collected, distributed, and treasured in years past.

When are objects from the Museum Collection available to view?

ACHS offers visitors the year-round opportunity to view a rotating selection of curated objects and artifacts in our Exhibit Hall during weekday business hours. Some recently exhibited objects include a brick made at Monticello, trench art created during World War I, a demitasse cup and spoon from the Rawlings Institute, a ceramic vase fired at the Monticello Pottery, a painting by folk artist Frances Brand, and photographs by Rip Payne. ACHS also uses photographs of objects from the collection to illustrate the Magazine of Albemarle Charlottesville History whenever possible.

How can I donate an object or artifact to the Museum Collection?

ACHS accepts object and artifact donations based on their suitability to the Museum Collection and ACHS’s ability to care for the object(s). Objects should be in good condition, have a direct connection to Charlottesville and/or Albemarle County, and be accompanied by a written record of the objects’ history and previous ownership. Donors should contact collections manager Keri Matthews at [email protected] to discuss potential donations before bringing or shipping objects to ACHS. A signed Deed of Gift must accompany each donation.

View the slide show below for a sample of items that we have in our Collections.

The Rip Payne Collection

Award-winning photographer Russell “Rip” Payne (1917-1990) was active in the Charlottesville area for more than half a century, working as a photojournalist, commercial and wedding photographer and artist. His incredible collection of images totals tens of thousands of prints, negatives and slides. In this photo, three men escape an exploding factory in Crozet, August 4, 1957.

Browns Gifts

Susan Brown Craig donated this historic marble sign to be preserved in our Collection. The “Gifts By Browns” sign was commissioned by her father, J. Nelson Brown, who along with his wife Lois was the founder and proprietor of Brown’s Gifts, a Charlottesville institution from 1931 to 1979. For most of its history the shop was located at the southeast corner of Fourth and East Main, now the site of a bank on the Downtown Mall. The shop was one of Charlottesville’s most popular gift/department stores in the period and emblematic of the mid-century variety store. The “Gifts By Browns” sign was created on marble that had been cut from an original 1920s-era soda fountain. For many years (prior to a devastating fire of 1954) the sign was prominently displayed on the Fourth Street side of the exterior of the building.

The Gallery of Firsts

Artist Frances Brand (1901-1990) spent the last years of her life in Charlottesville, dedicated to working on her amazing “Gallery of Firsts,” a unique collection of 150 individual portraits (donated to our Archive by her family) of men, women, and even children, black and white, rich and poor, all of whom Brand recognized as being heroes in some way: helping to bring progressive change at last to the Old South. Our hope is to create a new museum experience to exhibit all the Brand paintings and celebrate her magnificent and important work. Like Walt Whitman with his poetry in the 19th century, or photographers with their cameras during the Great Depression, Frances Brand powerfully captured with her art a pivotal moment of time in the American story. Her Collection is a national treasure. We are currently seeking title sponsorship to help make this dream a reality. Please do what you can. In this photo, Brand (right) stands before some of her paintings and with some of the subjects whom she celebrated in her work, including Charlottesville Civil Rights leaders Eugene and Lorraine Williams (left).

Vinegar Hill

A unique collection of paintings by Charlottesville artist Doris Collins documents the now-lost Vinegar Hill community before its destruction in the early 1960s. Part of “urban renewal” design, the razing of the heart of the African-American community of Charlottesville remains controversial to this very day. Collins’ work is an important historic record of the homes and businesses that once made up this neighborhood, an entire part of downtown that was so tragically wiped from the landscape.

Timberlake's Drugstore

This cardboard prescription pill box contained “Migraine Tablets” distributed by M. Timberlake Inc., Druggists. The dosage instructions handwritten in ink are somewhat vague, indicating “Dose 1 to 2.” Marshall Timberlake (1879-1946), a native of Albemarle County, opened his Timberlake’s Drugstore in the former location of a People’s National Bank in 1917. The store, including its historic soda fountain, continues to operate in the same location today on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall.

Updike's Token

For more than 50 years beginning in the late 19th century in Charlottesville, the five Updike brothers were leaders in brick manufacturing and masonry. Eston Updike owned and operated his self-named brickyard beginning in 1913 along what is now Cherry Avenue. During the 1910s and 20s Updike issued brass tokens to his employees– valued from 5¢ to $1.50— that could be spent at a company store in the neighborhood (now Fifeville) during the work week or traded for cash on the weekend. Updike brick was used in numerous residential and commercial construction in the City during this period, including projects at the University of Virginia. Updike sold his company in 1925, after which it was renamed the Monticello Brick Company— which became the leading brick maker in the region until it closed in 1942. The City of Charlottesville later acquired much of the former brickyard and pit, which is now the site of Tonsler Park.

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McIntire Library
Market Street Park

Downtown Charlottesville
200 Second Street, NE
Charlottesville, Virginia 22902


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