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West of the Boulevard

The Virginia Museum of History & Culture wins 2021 National Award of Excellence

The AASLH Leadership in History Awards, now in its 76th year, is the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history.

Trevor Dickerson

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The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) announced today that the Virginia Museum of History & Culture (VMHC) has been selected as a 2021 National Award of Excellence recipient for their year-long leadership of Virginia’s Women’s Suffrage Centennial. The AASLH Leadership in History Awards, now in its 76th year, is the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history.

Throughout 2020, the VMHC coordinated several popular programs as part of their statewide effort to mark the centennial anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Highlights of their work honored by the AASLH included the exhibition titled Agents of Change: Female Activism in Virginia from Women’s Suffrage to Today, which was mounted at the museum and included a travelling version which was seen throughout the state. The exhibition surveyed 100 years of women’s civic activism and featured a diverse selection of Virginia women who challenged concepts of femininity, advanced women’s equality and reshaped the nature of American democracy. This exhibition also included Today’s Agents of Change, a special re-creation of a historic photograph of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia in Richmond’s Capitol Square in 1915. The VMHC brought together a diverse group of female changemakers from across the state to recreate this image and highlight the diversity of women’s activism in Virginia today.

Also accompanying the exhibition, the documentary film These Things Can Be Done: Women’s Suffrage in Virginia, which was produced in partnership with VPM (Virginia Public Media) and used rare archival footage, the words and images of key figures, and commentary from historians and contemporary activists to tell the story of the suffrage movement in Virginia. The film provided historical context for the recent upsurge of female activism seen in the #MeToo movement, Black Lives Matter, Women’s Marches, and a wave of female officeholders.

The VMHC Education Team was also instrumental in ensuring that students and educators throughout Virginia had access to commemoration content through extensive virtual programming. Custom programs commemorating the Suffrage Centennial such as “Sign of the Times: Activism in the Suffrage Movement,” proved very popular.

This year, AASLH is proud to confer thirty-eight national awards honoring people, projects, exhibits, and publications. The winners represent the best in the field and provide leadership for the future of state and local history.

The AASLH awards program was initiated in 1945 to establish and encourage standards of excellence in the collection, preservation, and interpretation of state and local history throughout the United States. The AASLH Leadership in History Awards not only honor significant achievement in the field of state and local history, but also bring public recognition of the opportunities for small and large organizations, institutions, and programs to make contributions in this arena. For more information about the Leadership in History Awards, contact AASLH at 615-230-3203 or go to www.aaslh.org.

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Trevor Dickerson is the Editor and Co-Founder of RVAHub.