Reston@50 A new digital exhibition on the history of Reston!

Reston, Virginia celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in April 2014, and SC&A has created a new digital exhibition on Reston’s history. Named Reston@50, the Omeka-based exhibition contains eight themed exhibits and more than one hundred exhibit items from the University Libraries’ collections pertaining to Reston.  The exhibition is part of a grant project funded by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

The University Libraries’ relationship with the founders of Reston began nearly thirty years ago with the deposit of the Planned Community Archives collection (PCA) at SC&A in 1987. The collection contains archival materials gathered and preserved by people and organizations associated with the history and development of Reston.  Other planned communities, such as Columbia and Greenbelt, Maryland, and those that were part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s New Communities Program, are also represented in PCA.  PCA is just one of several collections pertaining to Reston that are featured in Reston@50. The University Libraries have maintained a close working relationship with founding members of Reston, the Reston Museum and Historic Trust, and other supporters of Reston over the past three decades during which the collections were acquired.


Plot plan, Lake Anne Village Reston, Fairfax County Virginia. Plat showing layout of housing clusters, single family homes, model homes, schools, churches, and roads in Lake Anne Village. Robert E. Simon, Jr. Papers #C0162 Box 3, Folder 8. Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University Libraries.

Items shown in Reston@50, along with exhibit text,  help illustrate certain themes in the history and development of the new town, namely: Reston’s beginnings; planning, designing, and marketing; villages, village centers, green spaces, and schools; business and government; recreation, arts, and culture; Gulf and Mobil; transportation; and community-mindedness. These items were selected and digitized by SC&A staff.

Along with Reston@50, and as part of the VFH grant project, the University Libraries, in conjunction with the Reston Museum and Historic Trust, sponsored a symposium on April 26, 2014 at the Reston Community Center in Reston.  The event, Reston at 50: Looking Back at Forward Thinking, featured lectures pertaining to aspects of Reston architecture, diversity in Reston, the Planned Community Archives collection, and other scholarship on Reston by George Mason University faculty and students.

Reston@50 can be accessed at:

Preservation Week!

Every year during Preservation Week, Lene Palmer our retiring preservation librarian has installed an exhibition in Fenwick Library highlighting preservation tips and techniques. This year is no different. Join us tomorrow for an exhibition reception complete with food and drink in Fenwick Library’s A and C wings.

In addition to preservation awareness the exhibition also features materials relating to the planned community of Reston, Virgina. This spring marks the fiftieth anniversary of Reston, and there will be a symposium tonight at the Reston Community Center for all who are interested.



George Washington’s Last Will and Testament available in SC&A

Although we are supposed to be celebrating George Washington’s birthday, a recent donation to Special Collections & Archives recalls Washington’s life just prior to his death. Included in the recent donation made by Randolph and Ellen Lytton is a published copy of George Washington’s last will and testament that he completed in July 1799 only six months prior to his death. Perhaps the most interesting section of the will states that following the death of his wife, Martha, “that all Slaves which I hold in my own right shall receive their freedom” (page 3). Washington, like other Founding Fathers, faced an obvious contradiction as he fought for freedom from tyranny while at the same time he owned people that worked in his houses and in his fields. His will appears to be an attempt to reconcile this contradiction. The will also includes a detailed description of his property and how he wanted it to be divided up among his heirs. According to the Papers of George Washington website, “[t]he language of Washington’s will and its contents combine to make it a document of particular importance among his papers.” The will was first printed in Alexandria shortly after being filed for probate in Farifax County, Virginia in January of 1800. According to the title page of the copy held by SC&A, it was printed in New York “from the Alexandria edition.”


Title page from a published copy of George Washington’s will and testament (January 1800), Randolph Lytton Historical Virginia Graphic Material Collection, George Mason University Libraries, Special Collections & Archives. Public Domain.

There are some noticeable differences between it and the title page from the copy that was printed in Boston in February of 1800 that is available through Google books and held at the New York Public Library.

For further inquiry into this document, the Papers of George Washington includes a transcription of the will as well as the original handwritten will.

Rare Book Conservation

George Mason University Libraries’ Special Collections & Archives (SC&A) was the proud recipient in December 2012 of an NEH Preservation Assistance grant.  Grant activities included working with a preservation consultant to assess preservation of collections here, creating a preservation plan, and prioritizing preservation actions.  We identified one important priority as working with a conservator to repair damaged rare books.  Conservation for rare books in SC&A now occurs routinely to make damaged books usable again. In the case of the 1820 Richmond imprint of the Proceedings and Debates of the Virginia State Convention of 1829-1830, our copy had a mutilated spine and the entire cover was separated from the text block as you see in the “before” photographs below. Conservation, using reversible materials and professional techniques, has resulted in a new spine created from compatibly colored and very strong Japanese paper. Meanwhile, the torn joints have been repaired, also using Japanese paper colored to match the beautiful original marbled end sheets.


Image of “Proceedings and Debates of the Virginia State Convention of 1829-1830” before conservation.


Image of “Proceedings and Debates of the Virginia State Convention of 1829-1830” after conservation.

Another, more modern book, the 1925 publication, The Building of Satellite Towns, had torn hinges. The conservator was able to save part of the original spine this time by adhering it to the spine replacement. The torn joints were repaired by replacing the old end sheets with compatibly colored, but new, acid-free end sheets. Note that the conservator saved the book seller’s stamp in the lower right hand corner of the pastedown. Working with conservators to repair books in Special Collections & Archives is part of our role as good stewards of these valuable research collections.


Image on the left shows spine damage on “The Building of Satellite Towns.” The image on the right shows the inside cover after conservation.


“The Building of Satellite Towns” spine after conservation.