Old Dominion University Libraries

Special Collections & University Archives

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Monday - Friday:
9 am - 4:30 pm

Other times by appointment


The Special Collections is located on the east side of the Library at the front of the 3rd floor.

Contact Information

Patricia W. & J. Douglas Perry Library
Norfolk, Virginia 23529-0256
telephone (757) 683-5350
fax (757) 683-5954


Norfolk Museum of Natural History

Scope and Contents - Access - Container List

Historical Sketch

Ideas for a Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences were originated in 1900 by the Leache-Wood alumnae who formed the Irene Leache Art Association in 1915 and the Norfolk Society of Arts in 1917. The site for the museum was reserved by the city in 1917. The museum was chartered in 1924. In 1932 and 1939, the museum was actually built. One wing was built first, and the other later.

In May of 1952, the Tidewater Natural History Council formed. It developed rapidly as part of the museum, and sponsored lecture and exhibit programs. The program worked well with the existing Tidewater history collection in the museum, and sought to become a permanent exhibit complete with specimens indigenous to the Tidewater area. In 1953, a public gallery containing shadow boxes and dioramas of local wildlife and wildlife habitats was installed in the museum. In particular, the exhibits highlighted live on the local seashores and in the Dismal Swamp.

By the end of 1954, a group of annual contributors known as the "Natural History Associates" was formed to help fund the museum's Natural History Division. With funding, the Natural History Council began to produce a Natural History newsletter, and informative booklets for schools and clubs.

The Natural History Division of the museum was active throughout the end of the 1950's and throughout the 1960's. It had both live and stuffed animal displays, and held classes and field trips on archaeology, botany, and ecology. In 1970, the future looked promising for the division, as the Natural Sciences Section was reestablished as a permanent part of the museum's organization.

In 1971, the Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences became the Chrysler Museum of Art when art collector, Walter P. Chrysler, Jr., presented the museum with his collection. The natural sciences and history functions of the museum were phased out around this time, as part of the museum's reorganization.

Scope and Contents

The Norfolk Museum of Natural History Collection includes 144 undated photographs that depict the museum's exhibits, staff, special functions, and activities.


Donated by Dr. Alan H. Savitsky, Professor of Biology at Old Dominion University, on February 1, 1989.


Open to researchers without restrictions. Questions about literary property rights should be directed to the Special Collections Librarian.


1 Hollinger document box.

Container List

Folder 1: Skeletons
Folder 2: The Sun and Moon
Folder 3: Nature Drawings
Folder 4: Visitors to the Museum
Folder 5: The Classroom
Folder 6: Nature Trips
Folder 7: Carving, Sculpting Stone
Folder 8: Miscellaneous (I)
Folder 9: Miscellaneous (II)
Folder 10: Mounted Photographs
Folder 11: Negatives

Revised: 7/14/08