Valentine Intern Spotlight: Emily
Emily, the Valentine’s Archives Intern, delves into her research on Mary Wingfield Scott and the importance of historic preservation
Hi everyone! My name is Emily and I’m the Archives intern at the Valentine this summer! I’m a rising Junior at Wellesley College, double majoring in history and classics with a focus on food history. I grew up in Richmond and work in Wellesley’s Archives during the school year, so I was beyond excited at the opportunity to work at the Valentine this summer. As a history student with some academic aspirations, archival materials are often the backbone of my research. Working to help make collections more easily accessible to students, scholars and the public has given me a lot of valuable insight on the importance of archival work in preserving and telling stories from our past.
I’ve spent my summer working on cataloguing the research notes of Mary Wingfield Scott. Mary Wingfield Scott was the author of “Houses of Old Richmond,” (1941) and “Old Richmond Neighborhoods,” (1950) and was a leader in Richmond’s historic preservation movement. As I’ve been working through her extensive collection (33 boxes and almost 3,000 folders!), I’ve gotten to see the scope and depth of her work. For almost every address in the collection, she included a photograph of the house as well as information on property owners, insurance policies, and mentions of the property in old newspapers. Many houses she catalogued and photographed have since been demolished, so many of these properties live on only in her publications and in this collection. Even as the city moves forward, Mary Wingfield Scott’s papers reminds us of the importance of our material past.
While most of her notes revolve around Richmond’s historic homes, I’m currently working on the last section of her collection about early French immigrants to Richmond. Each folder contains basic, somewhat sparse information about some of Richmond’s earliest immigrants, but the sheer number of people she wrote about is astounding. The stories of many of the men and women she wrote about have otherwise been lost to history, and it’s often difficult to find any additional outside information on them. While reading through and cataloguing her papers, I am reminded of the meaning and privilege of archival and historic preservation work. Richmond was built by thousands of men and women whose names and stories have been lost in public memory but who live on in archival collections that help tell the story of our past. Ordinary individuals made history and changed history, and it’s up to us to help uncover and tell the stories we’ve lost to time. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities the Valentine has given me to help do this work and highlight these stories.
Emily is the Archives Intern at the Valentine in Richmond.