The Place to Find the Information You’re Looking For
Are you looking for information about your family’s genealogy? An old building in Roanoke? The Civil War? Victory Stadium? Or even famed horse Secretariat? The Virginia Room at the Roanoke’s Main Library has your answers.
Located on the second floor, the Virginia Room is Roanoke Public Library’s research and archives library. It is home to drawers of maps, more than 20,000 books, 15,000 photographs and genealogical and historical records, archivist Dyron Knick says.
The Virginia Room also is where you’ll find microfilm of The Roanoke Times from its beginning in 1869 to the present, and “spotty smaller local publications,” Dyron says. The Ancestry.com Library Edition is available at the Virginia Room and any branch of the Roanoke Public Libraries. Collections are digitized at VirginiaRoom.org.
Dyron says most of what’s in the Virginia Room has come to them as donations, other items, such as The George Davis photo collection—photos from the early 1900s to the 1960s of Roanoke buildings, streetscapes and churches—was purchased at auction.
The Charles Burton Collection is typical of the type of donations the Virginia Room receives. Burton was a professional genealogist who lived in Botetourt County, Dyron says. The collection includes genealogy, historical information about properties and other materials, such as publications and photos.
“Donations are one of the reasons we exist,” Dyron says.
When a collection like the Burton one comes in, he and the staff first go through it to put it in order, then they deal with any preservation issues and, finally, they create a “finding aid.” The latter is a catalog of the contents, a paper trail, which lets Dyron and his colleagues direct researchers to the right place.
People access the Virginia Room for many different reasons, he says. Some are walk-ins. Others reach out from beyond the area by phone or email—they’re looking for genealogy or doing specific research, often for a master’s thesis or dissertation. After a reference interview, a staff member will point the visitor in the right direction.
The Virginia Room is so named to indicate its reach beyond just Roanoke. Dyron said they have records from every county in Virginia and relationships with similar facilities around the state. The initiative to begin collecting materials began in the late 1960s, he says.
The Lexington native says his favorite part of the collections is the photographs. “Who doesn’t love old photos?” He also enjoys the interaction with people who come to them for help. “We connect individuals with the information they are seeking.”