While his family was busy with operating the Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg, Norfolk-born Alexander Galt, Jr. (1827-1863) possessed artistic aspirations. His main ambition was to become a first-rate sculptor—and indeed he completed several sculptures in his brief life of 36 years—yet Galt’s sketchbook, housed in the Special Collections archives, is a testament to his mastery of drawing not only portraits and the human form, but also animals, architecture, and landscapes. In 1860, Alexander took the sketchbook with him on a trip to Florence, Italy to study sculpting, and in it he produced numerous beautifully detailed pencil drawings of men, women and children, many whom he names. A detailed sketch of a sitter’s hair falling above her ear reveals Galt’s careful attention to the most intricate curves and details of his subject.
One of the most beautifully executed manuscript volumes in the Special Collections Research Center is a genealogy notebook compiled by Wilson Miles Cary (1838-1914). Cary, the grandnephew of Thomas Jefferson, was born in Harford County, Md. and later lived in Baltimore, Md. where he served as a court clerk and also pursued his genealogy interest.
When I started my work in the Special Collections Research Center here at Swem Library in August, one of my first projects entailed uploading metadata to our online database for the Nathaniel V. Watkins Family Papers, 1846-1889. This collection is now digitized to help preserve it, but is also part of our ongoing Civil War Transcription Project. All of the Watkins Papers from the Civil War era are currently online, which means that they are now ready to be transcribed and shared with researches worldwide. Continue reading