Published January 5, 2023

As Encyclopedia Virginia (EV) said goodbye to longtime media editor extraordinaire Donna Lucey in 2022, we asked Donna to share some of her favorite images and objects from the thousands she has collected from across the Commonwealth and the country to bring EV’s entries to life and tell a more complete and inclusive story of Virginia. Stay tuned for Donna’s next project, as she turns her talents to her next book project: Victoria’s Island, a deep dive into the fascinating cultural history of the Isle of Wight through the lens of Queen Victoria.

Civil War-era Prosthetic Arm

A hinged and movable prosthetic arm used by a Confederate amputee appears in EV courtesy the American Civil War Museum.

This Civil War-era prosthetic arm gives a visceral sense of the brutality of war. This limb belonged to Confederate private Andrew Porter Scott, whose left arm had to be amputated after he was wounded in 1864 during the Battle of Cold Harbor. His new arm was state-of-the-art: made of molded rawhide over wood, with leather fittings, a brass elbow and a gear above the wrist that controlled the movements of his prosthetic fingers or wrist. It’s a remarkable—and rather beautiful—artifact of mid-nineteenth century medicine. (Credit: American Civil War Museum)

“Virginian Luxuries”

This folk painting captures the crime of enslavement in almost cinematic style. Two scenes side by side: a white master kissing his “property,” a Black woman whom he was free to abuse in any manner he pleased; and an angry overseer raising his cane to beat a Black man stripped to the waist. The painting’s title, “Virginian Luxuries,” adds to the work’s nightmarish quality, as if the debasement of human beings was the privilege of enslavers. As chilling as this image is, it bears a secret: it is the reverse side of the canvas. On the other side is a portrait of a prosperous looking young man made circa 1825 in New England. So why a hidden scene? Was it shown only to a select few? Did the image express abolitionist sentiments? (Credit: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)

The Wrath of Camille

Devastation Along Davis Creek in Nelson County – Photo by Brower York, Courtesy Oakland Museum

This ranks among the most unusual images collected over the years at Encyclopedia Virginia: a car hanging mid-air. It begs the question: how did this happen? Mother Nature. Hurricane Camille dumped at least twenty-seven inches of rain overnight in Nelson County on August 19-20, 1969. The National Weather Service said it was probably the “maximum rainfall which meteorologists compute to be theoretically possible.” When this photograph was taken, the creek at right had receded and appeared calm. But during the storm it turned into a tidal wave. Sleeping residents and houses were carried off in flash floods and landslides. The death toll in the rural county was 124, and damages amounted to over $100 million. (Credit: Brower York / Oakland Museum)

Suffragist Photograph

Virginia-born suffragist Lucy Branham addresses an outdoor crowd as part of the National Woman’s Party’s “Prison Special” tour in 1919. Courtesy of Library of Congress Manuscripts Division

Photographs are static; yet this image of Virginia-born suffragist Lucy Branham conveys action. Branham leans forward, as if pleading with the crowd she is addressing, most of them men. Woman suffragists were often treated as jokes, but Branham’s posture is one of steely resolve. Her simple checked dress indicates just that: this was the prison garb she wore at Occoquan Workhouse after being arrested in 1917 for peacefully protesting in front of the White House. She endured filthy conditions and was force-fed and beaten. Here she is on a “Prison Special” tour, speaking out against the injustice she had endured, and the injustice of women being denied the vote. (Credit: National Woman’s Party records, Library of Congress Manuscripts Division)

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