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Virginia Tech Helps Christiansburg Institute Preserve Black History Archives

25 Oct 2023 8:14 AM | Anonymous

From an article by Emily Hemphill published in the Cardinal News web site:

Artifacts from the former Black school have now been digitized. It’s part of a national push to preserve Black history records and make them more accessible.

For 100 years, Christiansburg Institute battled white discrimination by serving as a model of Black education and culture tucked away in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. Today, the battlefield has transferred to a digital arena as the nonprofit that carries its name strives to preserve it for future generations.

A national effort to digitize archives and artifacts embodying African American history, which has long been ignored and inaccessible to the masses, began soon after the racial unrest of 2020. The digitization movement made its way to the institute, which once stood just down the hill from the current Christiansburg High School, after executive director Chris Sanchez and museum curator Jenny Nehrt successfully applied for a $250,000 grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources for “Digitizing Hidden Collections” in 2022.  

“It’s basically immoral to underpreserve Black history in any society that claims to be democratic,” said Sanchez. 

The nonprofit, in collaboration with University Libraries at Virginia Tech, recently finished scanning and uploading 870 photographs, 60 slides, 15 diplomas, 48,000 typed pages and 3,300 handwritten pages from the school’s heyday. These artifacts can now be accessed by anyone with an internet connection: The collection will also be stored in the University Libraries’ digital space. An exhibit to promote the almost-completed work is open to the public until Dec. 17 on the second floor of the Newman Library.

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