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Welcome to the new blog of the Library of Virginia, The UncommonWealth!

As the Library of Virginia approaches its 200th birthday in 2023, it seemed like a good time to take stock of our online presence and the stories we share with the public. The Library wears many hats in service to the state. As the state archive it organizes and provides access to official records of the commonwealth, its counties, and independent cities along with a significant collection of private papers. The Library also provides assistance to state officials, state and local government agencies, and Virginia’s public libraries. We administer numerous grant programs, provide educational programs and resources on Virginia history and culture for students and teachers, and offer the public a wide array of exhibitions, lectures, book-signings, and other programs.

As they exist, our blogs Fit to Print and Out of the Box capture only a fraction of all that the Library has and does. In The UncommonWealth: Voices from the Library of Virginia, we aim to expand our scope to help you learn more about what we do, why we do it, and how our efforts relate to current issues and events. We also plan to tell you more about your fellow Virginians who work here at the Library, spotlighting staff members, specialized professions, and public libraries.

The term commonwealth dates back to the 15th century. In its simplest form, it refers to the common good, or common weal; as a form of government, it means a state in which supreme power is vested in the people. The word was first applied to Virginia in the 1600s, when England briefly existed as a republic during the Interregnum under Oliver Cromwell. After the restoration of Charles II, Virginia became a royal colony again and dropped the term commonwealth until the advent of the American Revolution. The 1776 Constitution of Virginia declared that “Commissions and Grants shall run, In the Name of the Common Wealth of Virginia.” The designation of Virginia as a commonwealth has been used in official records ever since.

Since its founding over 400 years ago, Virginia has continued to grow and evolve. The Library of Virginia, seeking to collect and reflect our ever-changing state, contains a wealth of stories and resources—a treasure trove of cultural heritage that belongs to us all, whether you were born a Virginian or arrived more recently. We are constantly adding to the unique cultural wealth of Virginia, as well as bringing new eyes to our well-established collections. We will update the blog each week, and we invite you to visit often, make comments, and share your experiences. We hope you will enjoy and contribute to the wealth of stories here, all of which are far from common.

A wealth of stories. Far from common.

Claire Radcliffe

Former State Records Archivist

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