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Virginia Tech, Montgomery Museum to digitize family heirlooms

April 7, 2016

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Community members can learn about preserving family heirlooms and have them photographed, scanned, and digitally preserved through the Montgomery County Memory Project.

Photographs, children’s toys, quilts, diaries, and letters from years past may seem like everyday objects packed away in attics or basements. In truth, such items are historical artifacts not only of the families they come from, but also of the communities they represent.

The Montgomery County Memory Project: People, Places, and Things of Montgomery County, Virginia, seeks to uncover these treasures, making connections within and among people in those communities.

Samantha Parish Riggin of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a nontraditional graduate student in material culture and public humanities, began the Memory Project as her practicum project. Drawing from 25 years of experience with antiques and collectibles, she wanted to encourage others to understand how mementos from everyday life, accompanied by experiences and memories, can build bridges between communities.

“We wanted to bring the community together and find objects, ephemera, and material culture that haven’t been shared yet and might further connect the community, or tell the Montgomery County story a little bit more,” said Parish Riggin.

With the support of the Montgomery Museum and Lewis Miller Regional Art Center, the University Libraries at Virginia Tech, and the Christiansburg Library, along with a Common Heritage grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Parish Riggin organized a series of events for the Montgomery County community.

These events will educate residents about the preservation and identification of artifacts, documents, manuscripts, and photographs and offer the opportunity to digitize them. The Memory Project events could lead to discoveries that enrich Montgomery County history, as well as family histories.

The events kick off with an educational talk, Antique Speak, from 2 to 4 p.m. April 10 in the Community Room of the Christiansburg Library. Parish Riggin will provide general information on the identification of antiques, including terms and category definitions, to aid in a better understanding of heirlooms.

During two digitization events April 23 and 30, University Libraries archivists and staff from Special Collections will photograph or scan visitors’ mementos and family items at no charge. Attendees will receive a digital copy of the photos and scans of their items to take home, along with the original materials.

Attendees can share their items and the stories behind them on a exhibit website dedicated to the project, but that is not required to have them digitized. Parish Riggin, along with Virginia Tech faculty, librarians, and archivists, will be available to help attendees learn about how to best store, care for, and preserve their materials.

“We want to encourage the sharing of items to build community connections, but we also want to stress the importance of preservation,” Parish Riggin said.

The two digitization and preservation events will be offered on the following dates:

  • 10 a.m. to  2p .m. April 23 in the Community Room of the Christiansburg Library at 125 Sheltman St.
  • 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 30 in the Multipurpose Room of Virginia Tech's Newman Library at 560 Drillfield Drive.

Visitors may bring up to three items each to be digitally scanned or photographed. The items brought in should belong to the attendee, and assistance will not be available to transport large items.

This summer, Spenser Slough of Roanoke, Virginia, will present on selected objects that were discovered during the digitization events. Slough is a graduate student in material culture and public history, a recent graduate of Virginia Tech’s master of arts in history program, and an expert on the material culture of Southwest Virginia and northeast Tennessee.

Parish Riggin and the Montgomery Museum and Lewis Miller Regional Art Center received a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant for the project from the NEH Common Heritage Program, The Common Good: The Humanities in the Public Square. Assistance on the project has been provided by Virginia Tech’s University Libraries.

For more information, visit the Montgomery County Memory Project website.

For the April 30 event in Newman Library, free parking is available on weekends at the Squires Student Center and Architecture Annex lots along Otey Street. Find more parking information online, or call 540-231-3200.

If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please contact Samantha Parish Riggin at 724-493-0750 during regular business hours prior to the event.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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