The University of Virginia was chartered by the Commonwealth in January 1819. It represented the fulfillment of a decades-long dream of Thomas Jefferson to create a public university free of religious dogma and political restraints: an institution of higher learning that would serve the principles of democracy, not the whims of a specific church or kingdom. The historic core of the University, which Jefferson referred to as an Academical Village, included individual pavilions for each professorship, rooms for over 200 students, multiple dining halls, and the Rotunda, a central library and classroom building. Built on a ridge just west of Charlottesville, the University opened to students on Monday morning March 7, 1825. (photo by Rufus Holsinger, circa 1890, courtesy of the Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia).
Collect, Preserve, Share

Photographs, prints, paintings, artifacts, clothing, ephemera, and other three-dimensional objects are included in our Collections. Items not currently on exhibit are generally available to be viewed by appointment. Appointments to view objects in the museum collections can be scheduled by emailing or calling us. A non-refundable advance fee of $45 per hour is charged non-members of the Historical Society. That fee includes the appointment with a staff member, any necessary research by staff, pulling and preparing the items for viewing, and returning items to storage. Members of the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society are able to view items without charge, per appointment.

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.


The Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society Library is among the very best of local history libraries in the country. Created by a committee of Historical Society volunteers, the library opened to the public on October 29, 1974, in the renovated basement of our then headquarters at 220 Court Square. Since that time, the holdings have grown to include over 6,000 individual volumes, 15,000 pamphlets, 300 historic maps, and over 1,000 archived manuscript items. Operated in collaboration with the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library system, the library was officially renamed in 2020 the Margaret Martin O’Bryant Library & Research Collection in honor of her over 35 years of service to the Society.


In addition to our Library holdings of books, manuscripts and historic maps, our Collections contains thousands of artifacts donated to the Society. These items help to tell the story of Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville: from papers to portraiture to photographs, clothing, furniture, memorabilia and ephemera, all donated by individuals, families, businesses and organizations throughout Central Virginia over the past 80 years. A sample of artifacts can be found on our Collections webpage. If you would like to donate an historic item to be preserved in our collections or do research in our collections, please contact us.

Copyrights & Reproductions

As curators, librarians and historians, our staff members are responsible for safeguarding the condition of materials in our Collection and for respecting the wishes and interests of authors and donors. We also wish to contribute to scholarship and teaching and want to make the public more aware of the books, manuscripts, and historic items we have. To accomplish these goals, the reproduction of items is often required. If you have a need to reproduce items in our collection or learn what we have, click this link for our policies.

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(434) 296-1492

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200 Second Street NE

Charlottesville, VA 22902

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At the Historic Public Library
On Market Street Park in Downtown Charlottesville
200 Second Street, NE
Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
Monday-Friday (8am-Noon) By Appointment
Phone: 434-296-1492
Email: [email protected]