Date: June 7, 2021
Summer is a great time to explore the Seminary campus. Last week I paid a visit to the lower level of Bohlen Hall, the temporary location of the Virginia Theological Seminary Archives and the African American Episcopal Historical Collection, (AAEHC). The Archives, previously housed in the lower level of the Bishop Payne Library, include campus publications, Board of Trustees and Faculty meeting minutes, campus photos, and journals, dating back to the early 1800s. The African American Episcopal Historical Collection comes out of a partnership with VTS and the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church, charged with documenting the lives of Black Episcopalians. Together, the Archives and AAEHC have much to tell us about this institution and the Episcopal church.
The documentation and preservation of our story takes place under the leadership of Christopher Pote, seminary archivist. Only 10% of the collection is housed in Bohlen. Yet, the work goes on. On the day of my visit there were photos on the table, waiting to be tagged and filed, some of the documentary building blocks we will use to tell and retell the story of Virginia Theological Seminary.
The location of these two collections of materials is significant. Sometimes unnoticed by those who only visit the “main floor” of the building, the Archives and AAEHC are a foundation that supports the life and work of this institution, providing the resources for everything from the Saints and Stories display in Addison Academic Center, to the upcoming Bicentennial celebration, to the research that undergirds the Reparations initiative. For example, the research team of the Reparations initiative made a recent discovery of pertinent material in our archives. Ebonee Davis, associate for programming & historical research for Reparations, commented, “It wasn’t hidden. It’s just that no one was looking for it.” I was reminded that discovery is actually the act of uncovering or remembering what was there all along.
The Rev. Judy Fentress-Williams, Ph.D.
Acting Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of Old Testament