Blast from the Past – Remembering Gender and the American Diary

I was pleased to find that Ridener included some information on archival appraisals in his book. Assigning value to archived materials has been of interest to me since my first experience with Special Collections last semester. I was enrolled in a course titled Gender and the American Diary, in which I worked to transcribe an original manuscript (diary) written in 1859. At the time, I assumed that the diaries and other materials housed in Special Collections were all donated. However, as I dug deeper into the project I learned that many of the archived documents were purchased…some even from eBay! I’m not sure why this fact bothered me, but it did, so much so that my final paper focused on the sale of such items and the values assigned to them. While I can appreciate the heightened significance of certain historical documents, I take issue with the implication that a monetary worth can be determined. Some questions that I asked during my previous research include: Who determines these values? What factors tend to lead to inflation? At the end of my project, I was able to understand the process of appraising and its role in building Special Collections. However, I still think of those “less valuable” pieces that are at risk of being overlooked or totally discarded.


The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

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