Esther Thomas Atkinson Museum


Esther Thomas Atkinson Museum

1941
College Road
Hampden-Sydney, VA 23943



The building housing the Museum was erected as the village post office in 1941. The Museum took over these quarters in 1976. The post office then moved to the basement of Johns Auditorium and in 1979, to Graham Hall. The Esther Thomas Atkinson Museum chronicles the growth of the College through two centuries. Exhibits include dioramas and portraits.

Exhibitis of note include

  • A picture of Mr. Robert H. Porterfield 1928, who founded the Barter Theater in 1933 in Abingdon. Theater-goers could pay the admission fee either with money or by bartering an equivalent amount of produce, which fed the performers during the Depression.
  • The author of the prize-winning novel Sounder, William H. Armstrong, was in the Hampden-Sydney Class of 1936. His picture is on a side wall.
  • The document which awarded the Coat of Arms to the College hangs on a side wall. The blue writing about three-quarters of the way through the document is the actual prescription for the Coat of Arms.
  • There is a diploma on one wall which awarded a Master of Arts degree to a Hampden-Sydney student. That is not a Master's degree in the modern sense of the degree, but from an old English University practice. Approximately three years after the B.A., a Master of Arts degree was awarded upon the request of the student. Later, a student had to continue his coursework for another year after the B.A.; at one time a thesis was required. The last M.A. was given in 1916.
  • An officer's chair, circa 1825, of the Union Society is on display, as well as the president's chair, circa 1860, of the Philanthropic Society. (Founded in 1789, the Union Society is the second-oldest student debating society in the nation. The Philanthropic Society was founded in 1805.) The two joined forces in 1929.