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A Noble Prize in View’
U.Va. Showcases Declaration Of Independence Collection In New Albert And Shirley Small Special Collections Library

November 9, 2004 --

“There is no looking back, the prospect forward is exceedingly better & more hopeful. I hope no one is at all discouraged. . . . We have a noble Prize in View . . .”— William Williams, Declaration of Independence signer from Connecticut, in a letter to Jabez Huntington, 1776

Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of University of Virginia alumnus Albert H. Small, the U.Va. Library has one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of rare materials about the Declaration of Independence.

Beginning Thursday, Nov. 11, visitors will be able to explore the collection in a spectacular exhibit space within the new Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, located on McCormick Road on U.Va.’s central grounds.

The permanent exhibit — “The Declaration of Independence: Creating and Re-Creating America’s Document — displays highlights of Small’s extraordinary collection of letters, documents and early printings of the Declaration. The exhibit sheds light on not only the writing and signing of the Declaration, but also on its first printing, distribution across the colonies and future impact on American history.

The centerpiece of the exhibit is an extremely rare first printing of the Declaration made by John Dunlap on the evening of July 4, 1776. Only 25 of these very first copies are known to exist today. Also included are early newspaper printings that show how news of independence spread from Philadelphia throughout the colonies. The exhibit continues with rare early printings made after the Revolutionary War, including one that was owned by the Marquis de Lafayette. Another of the treasures in the Small Collection is a set of autographed letters from all 56 of the Declaration’s signers, most dating from 1776. Highlights of these letters are also on display.

To give visual context to the written materials, the exhibit features reproductions of period illustrations drawn from U.Va.’s Special Collections and other libraries. A 12-minute documentary film also helps bring the dramatic events of the nation’s founding to life.

“This collection offers a unique resource for studying the Declaration and its impact on our development as a country,” said University Librarian Karin Wittenborg. “It also illustrates the passion and bravery of the individual signers, and gives us their personal stories. Mr. and Mrs. Small’s wonderful generosity means that we can share this important resource not only with U.Va. students and faculty, but with all visitors to the University.”

Albert H. Small, a Maryland real estate developer and philanthropist, earned a degree in chemical engineering from U.Va. in 1946. Over the years, he built a unique and comprehensive collection of Declaration of Independence items. Desiring to share his treasure with students and scholars, Small, a longtime supporter of U.Va, pledged the entire collection to the University. He also pledged $2.5 million toward the construction of a new library building to house this valuable resource. The new Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library is named in honor of Small and his wife, Shirley. 


Images, fact sheets and this press release can be downloaded from:

Small Special Collections Library hours:

The library is open to the public Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed on Sundays. Hours will also change for exam and holiday periods: please see

Online version of the exhibit:

Information about the 235 items in the Declaration of Independence collection:

Overview with highlights:

To explore individual descriptions of items in the collection:

  1. Click the “Virgo” link from any U.Va. library Web page to access the online catalog.
  2. Enter “Albert H. Small Declaration of Independence Collection” in the “keyword search” box.
  3. Select “SPEC-COLL” in the “(optional) select library” box.
  4. Press “keyword anywhere” to get a listing of the entire collection; then click on the item that interests you.

Contacts: Charlotte Morford, (434) 924-4254; Media contact: Kathleen Valenzi, (434) 924-6857; TV contact: Sheri Winston, Television News Office, (434) 924-7550

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services


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Last Modified: Wednesday, 02-Nov-2005 10:41:44 EST
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