Entrance to the Esther Thomas Atkinson Museum.
The Esther Thomas Atkinson Museum of Hampden-Sydney College was officially founded in 1968. Located in the sprawling countryside, the museum hosts an impressive permanent collection. The establishment of the museum began with the exhibition of personal mementos and memorabilia from Esther Thomas Atkinson. Atkinson, who was the wife of the treasurer of Hampton Sydney at the time, felt a deep concern for the heritage of the college. This initial act of the museum reflects its personal mission to not only preserve the history of the college but to strengthen it as a well. The museum is not only deeply committed to preserving and collecting objects from the past, but also furthering the education of the college and the community.
This goal is reflected in the museum’s permanent collection, which chronicles significant points in the history of the college and the surrounding area. For example, it showcases the first arrival of settlers in the region in 1770 and the role of the college in the community throughout history. The collection ranges from everyday items such as clothing to important documents. In addition to this permanent collection are temporary exhibitions in the East Gallery. The temporary exhibitions are meant to showcase and supplement the education lessons and values of the college. The museum also has been host to many prominent traveling exhibitions.
The Esther Thomas Atkinson Museum is closely connected to the college itself. It acts as both a monument to the history of the college and as an educational guide. The museum’s mission is to educate and enhance the college and the community. Students are actively involved and encouraged to interact with the museum. In fact, in 1990 the Student Museum Board was established. Their mission is to help maintain the museum and care for the collection.
There is a committed interest in the conservation of history of art as well. Their permanent collection is not only a reminder of their past, but also a way to safeguard it as well. One of the reasons that the museum was established was to catalog and manage the rapidly growing collection. In addition to maintaining it, the museum is also involved in various restoration projects. One of these projects is the creation of replicas of a marble bust of James Madison. The Esther Thomas Atkinson Museum is the only place that has an existing replica of the marble bust of James Madison by Frederick William Sievers. This project is done in conjunction with the University of Virginia and The Montpelier Foundation. The project helped not only to spread the history of the college but the nation as well.
The museum is committed to preservation of its collection and sharing the history of the college and the region. It is home to an extensive permanent collection of the college’s history but as well as host to temporary exhibitions that further the educational lessons and missions of the college.
Amy Chadick, Claire Bui, & Laine Clark