Letter from the President
Big Shoes to Fill?
By Charles F. Bryan, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer
It's hard to believe we've been holding our noontime Banner Lectures for nearly two decades. Some of you may remember when the series began in downtown Richmond at Thalhimers department store. We thought if we could attract fifty people, six times a year, we would be doing well. From the beginning, however, we had audiences of nearly two hundred, and now it's a rare day when we draw fewer. The popularity of the series only increased when we moved it to the Halsey Family Lecture Hall in our then-new wing in 1993.
For some years now, we've scheduled more than double the original number of lectures. And yet the audiences keep growing. Fortunately we now have the new Robins Family Forum, but even its 500-seat capacity is sometimes strained by the turnout. Last November, we were fortunate to have Josiah "Si" Bunting III speak on his biography of Ulysses S. Grant. We filled the Forum and overflow seating in two other rooms. I don't know exactly how many people attended, but it had to be more than 800.
Unfortunately, many people have to miss some of our best lectures. I'm pleased to report that we are addressing the problem. Now, anyone who misses a lecture may come to our library and view it on DVD. And earlier this year, we began posting audio recordings of past lectures at www.vahistorical.org.
Looking back, there have been 156 Banner Lectures in all. Just think of the variety of topics they've covered. Thanks to the loyalty of you, the VHS members, these noontime lectures, together with our three annual members-only evening lectures, have become our most popular adult programs. We've already had several Banner Lectures in 2008 and are on track to rival last year's record number. If you'll excuse the pun, it will obviously be another banner year. And you know I'm not exaggerating when I predict that the J. Harvie Wilkinson, Jr., Lecture, on October 23, which will bring documentary film producer Ken Burns to the VHS, will be sold out. Again, thanks to all of you for demonstrating so enthusiastically that lively talks on our incredibly varied history as a state and a nation remain as popular as ever.
Posted March 2008
• Letter archive
• Charles F. Bryan, Jr. biography