Southern Agenda

They’ve Got It All

Illustration: Tim Bower

For two centuries, the Library of Virginia in Richmond has served as the commonwealth’s unofficial Department of Hoarding, amassing more than 130 million records and artifacts, from governors’ papers to travel brochures to a magic wand. This year, the city-block-sized building celebrates its bicentennial with 200 Years, 200 Stories, an exhibition that sorts through the holdings to recognize hundreds of fascinating Virginians. Don’t come looking for Washington, Jefferson, and other founding fathers, though. “This is not about the who’s who of Virginia,” says Gregg Kimball, the library’s director of public services and outreach. Instead, the staff highlights notable but often lesser-known citizens such as Ethel Bailey Furman, the state’s first Black female architect, who designed about two hundred residences and churches in Central Virginia during the twentieth century. As for the wand, it belonged to Melanie MacQueen, who became a statewide celebrity when, from 1989 to 2013, she starred in Virginia Lottery commercials as a fairy godmother named Lady Luck.