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Archives Collection Development

Archives collections collage

What We Collect

I. Official Records of the Institute

The VMI Archives acquires and preserves official records that are of permanent historical or administrative value. These records include, but are not limited to, selected records of the Board of Visitors, Superintendent, and other senior administrators; Institute publications; non-current student records; records that document cadet life, significant events, programs, decisions, policies, or Institute activities; and records that are defined as permanent by the Virginia State Library and Archives in its records retention schedules. VMI Record Groups are periodically reviewed and updated as needed to reflect organizational changes. Institute records are generally acquired through transfer from the office of origin.

II. Manuscripts

The department considers for acquisition manuscripts (personal papers) in the categories listed below.  In contrast to institutional records, personal papers are created or received and maintained by an individual or family. Manuscript collections may include correspondence, diaries, memoranda, military orders, photographs, reports and printed material. These collections are typically acquired through donation; we do not have a budget for purchasing manuscript material.  

  • Papers of alumni, faculty, administrators, or other individuals or families connected to VMI, if such papers have current or potential research value or if they are of significant symbolic value to the Institute. Collections documenting military history and the military service or leadership activities of alumni are of particular interest.
  • Personal papers documenting Institute history and cadet life.
  • Papers relating to the Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley, including the Battle of New Market, Hunter's Raid, other military engagements or activities involving the Corps of Cadets, and Stonewall Jackson.
  • Other collections which relate to or complement collections held in the above categories.

III. Photographs

The department actively collects images, 1839 - present, that document VMI history and cadet life.   We seek photographs of people associated with the Institute, buildings and grounds, cadet activities, special events and related images. We also collect images associated with the other broad areas listed under manuscripts (above). Particular emphasis is placed on the period before a yearbook was regularly published (1895) and on candid photographs of cadet life that do not routinely appear in official sources. New holdings are acquired through donation and transfer from VMI offices.

IV. Rare Books

The VMI Archives houses the Institute’s rare book collection, which originated in the Institute’s earliest 19th century library acquisitions.  Because we have limited expansion space and funds, any new holdings are acquired through prearranged donation only and must contribute significantly to the existing collection.   Factors such as research value, age, scarcity, unique physical characteristics and significance to the Institute are taken into consideration when evaluating potential donations.

About Donations

  • Prospective donors to the VMI Archives should consult with the Head of Archives and Records Management prior to sending or delivering material to us.  
  • Final acquisition decisions are based upon many factors; if we feel that we are not the best fit for a collection or item we will be happy to recommend other repositories.
  • We accept unrestricted gifts only and all material will be open to public research.  We do not accept material on loan. 
  • We do not provide or pay for tax appraisals.  Appraisals are the responsibility of the donor and should be completed prior to delivering material to us. 
  • In addition to appropriate historical materials, we gratefully accept donations to the VMI Archives Fund.