Preserving the Present for the Future

Current events are impacting every aspect of life in the Shenandoah Valley. The Covid-19 pandemic has closed schools and businesses. Store shelves have been emptied of toilet paper and meat. Individuals have made thousands of cloth masks. The killing of George Floyd has led to protests and marches throughout the Valley reflective of the struggle for social justice.

The MSV is responding to these historic moments and movements by instituting a Rapid Response Collecting strategy. The material and artistic culture created now will be vital tools for future generations to understand and engage with our present reality. We need your help to preserve these items of impact.

Many objects that are a result of daily life get thrown away. Things like a Black Lives Matter protest sign or a Covid-19 grocery list are ephemeral. They are not traditional heirlooms that will be passed down through generations to one day end up in a museum. But they are important.


Top: Protestors carry a banner along Cameron Street during the "I Can't Breathe" walk in Winchester, Virginia. Above: Individuals kneeling at the "I Can't Breathe" walk in Old Town Winchester.  Images courtesy of Cleo Usmani. 

To that end, the MSV is committed to collecting representative, ephemeral material culture from Black Lives Matter marches and protests throughout the Valley as well as objects related to our shared pandemic experience. The following lists are examples of items of impact that the MSV will consider for acquisition.

Black Lives Matter marches and protests

  • Homemade signs
  • Artwork
  • T-shirts
  • Face masks
  • Photographs


Keandra Cochran holds a "Got Justice" sign while marching in Old Town Winchester. Image courtesy of Cleo Usmani. 

Covid-19

  • Face masks
  • At-home school curriculum
  • Business signs (related to closures, take-out offerings, updated hours, etc.)
  • Grocery list
  • Furlough notice
  • Artwork


Home-made masks that were made to be donated to Winchester Medical Center. Image courtesy of Lauren Fleming. 

If you would like to offer objects for consideration, please send a description and a photograph of what you have to Nick Powers, Curator of Collections, at [email protected] and/or Lauren Fleming, Registrar/Collections Manager, at [email protected]. Objects under consideration will follow a traditional acquisition process that involves assessment of the object, presentation to staff, and considerations of condition and long-term preservation.

The following FAQ and Terms and Guidelines contain detailed information about what we collect and any restrictions on donations.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How do I donate physical or digital items?

All donations start with you reaching out via email to Nick Powers, Curator of Collections, and/or Lauren Fleming, Registrar/Collections Manager. Their emails addresses are [email protected] and [email protected].

Please explain what you would like to donate, the history of the item(s), and photographs of the object(s). Information about the owner and when or how the items were made or acquired is also helpful. MSV staff will follow up with a request for additional information and details about the acquisitions process. Materials will be assessed at a monthly Arts & Education Division meeting and all donors will be notified of the committee’s decision.

What do we collect?

The MSV strives to connect people, history, and art in the Shenandoah Valley. To achieve that, we collect art and material culture that documents the lives and experiences of people throughout the Valley. These materials include things like journals, letters, furniture, paintings, and textiles. Details are important as the Arts & Education Division use them to determine if the item will fit in our collection.

Are all donations accepted?

Unfortunately, we are unable to accept every submission. The Arts & Education Division is tasked with carefully assessing offered items to ensure that our collections help tell the story of the Shenandoah Valley and her inhabitants while also being the best stewards of our limited resources.

 When will my items be on display?

At any given time, we have about 5% of our collections on display. The remaining items are carefully catalogued and stored in a controlled environment and made available to researchers, loaned to other museums when appropriate, and assessed for future in-house exhibits. While not everything is on physical display, we are working to launch an online collection database this fall where objects can be accessed digitally at any time.

Terms and Guidelines:

  • The MSV reserves the right to decline inappropriate, duplicative, or irrelevant material and is not obligated to include all submitted content for this project or to preserve all donated project content for perpetuity.
  • Only submit digital content that you own or have created.
  • All content accepted in this process is deeded to the MSV, and a non-exclusive license given for public use, research, display, exhibit, and publication.
  • Documents or materials with proprietary information will not be shared until their details are no longer confidential.  

You must be 18 years of age or older to submit content. If you are under 18, please ask a parent or guardian to submit content on your behalf.


MSV Horticulturist Chantal Ludder giving flowers to Shenandoah Valley Westminster-Canterbury during the Covid-19 pandemic. Image courtesy of Jeremy Linaburg.

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Published Date: 
Friday, June 19, 2020
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