The Birth of Atkinson Museum


Nate Sterling ’15

 What is the Museum?
The Museum unofficially “started” in 1968 when Mrs. P.T. (Mrs. Esther Thomas Atkinson) displayed a few of the Hampden-Sydney College artifacts in the Parents and Friends lounge. Later, students and friends, inspired by Mrs. Atkinson, intended to help transform the renowned Bagby Hall into the College’s history collection. Many people donated artifacts to help the cause. Among these donations were flags of the Navy V-12 unit that was stationed outside the College during WWII, several portraits, and a “printed account of the arraignment, trial, and condemnation of Algernon Sydney for high treason” (The Newsletter). The Hall was opened in 1970 and served as the College’s temporary “museum” until the hall became over populated with historical artifacts.
How did the Atkinson Museum come to be?
On October 30th, 1982, a crowd of 200 people stood outside of the former post office. President Bunting dedicated the Esther Thomas Atkinson Museum of Hampden-Sydney. The Atkinson Museum’s curator was, of course, Mrs. Atkinson, who was there to remain until May 8, 1994. Mrs. Atkinson believed in preserving the history of the College and the Atkinson Museum is a testament to her legacy and her strong belief in preserving the College. Mrs. Atkinson became the mother of the idea to restore and preserve H-SC History.
What does the Museum do?
The main function of the Museum is to preserve the artifacts of the College, such as the more recent Mr. Brinkley items, but the Museum also promotes and assists others in learning more about the College’s history. Anyone with the preconceived notion that the Museum is full of antiquated, boring items should recognize that it is a place of interesting and genuinely important artifacts. Right now, the Banner Boys exhibit is up in the back room. This exhibit shows all the different places that Hampden-Sydney Students and Alumni have been: Greece, China, Antarctica, etc.


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