Almost from its inception in 1964, Eastern Shore Public Library collected print-based materials – books, photographs, maps, manuscripts, pamphlets and microfilm – relating to the history, genealogy, and culture of the Eastern Shore of Virginia (ESVA). When the library in Accomac expanded in 1984, the local history collection was allocated the former children’s room. Since then, the Eastern Shore Room has provided research materials for people searching for information about their family history, scholars researching the earliest beginnings of the United States, authors writing stories about Eastern Shore culture, and students learning about local history.
The rare books and manuscripts, along with the expertise of librarian and historian Brooks Miles Barnes, PhD, became well-known drawing visitors from all over the world. The library received the donated collections of local genealogists and historians like Mark Lewis, Nora Miller Turman and James Egbert Mears.
Over time, donations had to be turned away, due to space limitations donations. Archives pertaining to the Shore started to be donated to the historical societies in Richmond and out-of-state. Dr. Barnes and other local history enthusiasts, genealogists, and historians took this as a call to action to keep the Shore’s history on the Shore. They successfully advocated for the new regional library to have a large, climate controlled room to safely store and preserve Eastern Shore of Virginia printed and media documents.
Because the Library Board of Trustees committee 1,104 square feet of the 20,837 square foot library to an archive room, the library was the beneficiary of bequests from Frances Bibbins Latimer and Kirk Mariner, both significant in linear feet volume and their contribution to the Eastern Shore’s African American historical record.
In May 2022, the library was able to recruit a certified archivist to move the collections to the new ESVA Heritage Center. This professional, fulltime staff member will organize the collections, prioritize preservation and digitization plans, and create robust policies to meet the Board’s vision for the Center. Community members will continue to advice and volunteer to ensure the success of the Center in establishing its place in the stewardship of our nation’s heritage.