Letter from the President
By Charles F. Bryan, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer
My wife, Cammy, and I were in Nashville, Tennessee, shortly after Katrina left her mark on the Gulf Coast. We stayed at a hotel in which many of the guests were hurricane evacuees. I talked to several of them, and their stories all shared a common theme: what people choose to take with them when fleeing from destruction. Aside from taking the basics (food, clothing, medicine, pets), every one of these people felt a profound need to find a safe haven for their most cherished possessions. These were priceless objects, such as old photographs and family heirlooms, items that evoked memories and emotions and that can never be replaced. Katrina's evacuees were trying to save the material links to their past—to their children's and grandchildren's past.
I was moved by this experience, hearing face-to-face the inherent need of these people to hold onto their most precious recollections. And it reaffirmed my belief in the essential work of the Virginia Historical Society. As our mission statement says, we collect, preserve, and interpret the commonwealth's past for the education and enjoyment of present and future generations. Since 1831, countless treasures have been entrusted to the Society as a safe haven. These treasures tell the stories of people who struggled, loved, endured, and prevailed. They help carry audiences to another time and place by shedding light on the people, places, and events that make up our shared past. They help us understand who we are and where we might be going by learning from those who have preceded us.
Next year, we will celebrate 175 years of collecting and interpreting the evidence of Virginia's history, of providing that safe haven. As we approach the season of giving, I hope you will generously respond to our campaign and mission.
Posted November 2005
• Letter archive
• Charles F. Bryan, Jr. biography