Introduction to the Museum

The Esther Thomas Atkinson Museum of Hampden-Sydney College was founded in 1968 for the purposes of collecting and preserving the rich history of Hampden-Sydney College, its culture and community.

Uniform in the Atkinson MuseumChair and historical dress in the Atkinson MuseumFounded in 1775, Hampden-Sydney College is the last American College founded under the British crown, and has remained in continuous operation since November 10, 1775. It is one of the oldest institutions of higher learning in the United States, holds the oldest private charter (1783) in the South, and is the oldest of the country's remaining Colleges for men.

The College is significant for its role in the history of Virginia and the United States, as well as many outstanding scholars, theologians, citizens, and institutions it has produced, such as the Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, Virginia, and the Medical College of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia; both founded under the charter of Hampden-Sydney College.

A permanent exhibition highlights the history of the College, from the arrival of the first Presbyterians in this region (ca 1770), until the twentieth century, with a special emphasis on the birth of the College (1775), the Union Theological Seminary (1812), the New College (1820), the Medical Department (1837), and the role of the College during the War years.Visitors can also expect to see a variety of changing exhibitions in the East Gallery, which highlight the College curriculum, symposiums, honor faculty achievements, alumni, and supplement other special College events. 

Marionette Puppet, The Globe Theater, Hampden-Sydney, VA, ca 1930

Portrait, Lucy Jane Page Cushing, wife of Jonathan Peter Cushing (President HSC, 1821-1835), attributed to William Hubard ca 1830

Sword, Captain William Latane, Class of 1853.  French Model 1822 Light Cavalry, ca 1840

Freshman Beanie, ca 1910; student megaphone, ca 1935

Plate, Willow Pattern Earthenware, English, attributed to William Adams, ca 1830

Apothecary scale and weights used by Dr. John Peter Mettauer, Class of 1811, of Worsham, Virginia, ca 1830