Norfolk Southern donates archives to museum
Virginia Museum of History & Culture cataloging Norfolk and Western Railway collection
Atlanta-based Norfolk Southern Corp. donated its complete collection of historical documents and archives from Norfolk and Western Railway, its predecessor, to the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, the company announced last week.
Norfolk Southern, formerly headquartered in Norfolk, also provided a $750,000 grant to help the museum digitize, catalog and preserve the collection, and to hire interns from underrepresented communities to support the work for the next five years, beginning this fall.
“Our intent is to make it as broadly accessible as we can,” said Adam Scher, vice president of collections for VMHC, including for the museum’s exhibition, for loan to other institutions and on the website’s museum.
The collection, which dates to the 1840s, includes approximately 1,500 feet of archival material, Scher told Virginia Business, including business records, personal correspondence between railroad presidents and annual reports. Also included are publicity materials like radio program scripts, timetables and photographs.
“It really gives us an opportunity to provide researchers with access to an unparalleled collection of scholarly material … It’s a great way to have a better understanding of the importance of railroads in building the economic vitality of the state and also how railroads were important to building communities around Virginia by connecting these small towns together,” Scher said.
The collection also has some 3D artifacts, including a roughly 2-foot cylindrical slide rule from the 1880s that people would have used for varying calculations, Scher said.
“It doesn’t look like a conventional slide rule that we know of today … it’s much more elaborate-looking,” he said. “It’s almost like a piece of art.”
Norfolk and Western originated in 1838 as a 9-mile single-track line connecting Petersburg and Hopewell, then known as City Point. In 1982, the company merged with Southern Railway to create Norfolk Southern.
“The commonwealth of Virginia has played a pivotal role in our history, and we are incredibly proud of the contributions it has made to our success,” Norfolk Southern Chairman and CEO Jim Squires said in a statement. “This important piece of history belongs in Virginia, and we’re confident that our archives will be in excellent hands with the Virginia Museum of History & Culture.”
Norfolk Southern moved its corporate headquarters from Norfolk to Atlanta last year.