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Library of Virginia Wants Your Pandemic-Related Sign Photos

The signs of the times are very different from pervious signs.

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The Library of Virginia is currently collecting images of COVID-19-related signage from the public through a “Signs of the Time: COVID-19 in Virginia” Tumblr page (va-signsofthetime.tumblr.com).

In the midst of the current pandemic, many Virginia businesses are shutting their doors to slow the spread of COVID-19, while others remain open with reduced hours to provide essential services. It can be a challenge to convey information to the public in such quickly changing circumstances. Often created in haste, these impromptu paper signs are taped to doors and shop windows indicating where to collect or drop-off products, reminding people to practice social distancing, and communicating other safety best practices.

Community photos of these temporary signs will help future generations visualize what life was like for Virginians during the disruption to business and social interaction caused by COVID-19. The Library is not encouraging people to leave home in order to take photos, but rather to help us document signs you might see as you venture out for supplies or takeout food in your Virginia communities.

Photographs of storefronts and signs can be submitted via desktop or mobile device by clicking the “Submit” option in the menu on the Tumblr page. “We chose Tumblr because it’s easy,” said Dale Neighbors, the Library’s Visual Studies Collection coordinator. “It seemed one of the most convenient ways for people to submit their images.”

The Library of Virginia has two main focuses in its COVID-19 collecting. As the archival agency of the commonwealth and home to the records of state and local governments, we want to document the official response and the changing landscape of governmental guidance during the crisis. Secondly, with our strategic focus on civic and community life, we want to collect representative examples of how Virginia communities are affected by the virus.

“For the Visual Studies Collection specifically, I wanted to express through visual imagery how Virginians’ public lives were impacted with the halting of regular business and social interaction,” said Neighbors. “As businesses and restaurants were just beginning to post signs announcing changes in hours and services offered, I wanted to seize the moment before such items, and the memories associated with them, faded away. Photographing these ephemeral signs and submitting them to the Library is a way of preserving history as it’s happening.”

The Library looks forward to a time when COVID-19 signs will be a thing of the past. As Virginia enters phase one of its reopening from the pandemic, many of the original signs are already being removed or altered, but the photographs submitted will serve as a reminder of these times for generations to come.

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Richard Hayes is the co-founder of RVAHub. When he isn't rounding up neighborhood news, he's likely watching soccer or chasing down the latest and greatest board game.

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Richmond Then and Now – Semmes Avenue

A then and now snapshot of Richmond.

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Original Image: The Library of Virginia, Semmes Avenue at West 15th Street, looking east, with Muse Buick showroom on the right corner, Adolph B. Rice Studio, December 2, 1954

After getting this off my camera I realized I should have backed up a little more but you get the idea.

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Richmond Then and Now – Nick’s Grill 802 Hull Street

A then and now snapshot of Richmond.

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One of my favorite images of Richmond although it could be almost anywhere in the 1950’s.

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Original images: The Library of Virginia, Adolph B. Rice Studio, April 6, 1955, Rice Collection 594C

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Richmond Then and Now – 15th and Hull

A then and now snapshot of Richmond.

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Vintage images from The Library of Virginia’s Flickr.

Title: Crosswalks, 15th & Hull Streets
Creator: Adolph B. Rice Studio
Date: 1956 Dec. 30

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