Curator Conversations: A Tale of Two Trunks

Time Period
1825 to 1860
1861 to 1876
1877 to 1924
1925 to Today
Media Type
Domestic Life
Politics & Government
Andrew Talkov

In this series, VMHC curatorial staff bring exclusive member-only programs to you on a variety of interesting topics. To see upcoming events in this series, please visit

A Tale of Two Trunks: Mary Custis Lee and James Jones (February 8, 2021): In 2001, a descendant of General Robert E. Lee discovered two trunks that had belonged to Lee’s eldest daughter, Mary Custis Lee, in a bank vault in Alexandria. The larger of the two was packed with papers and memorabilia not only documenting Mary’s own world travels and significant portions of her father’s military career and postwar life, but also the lives of individuals formerly enslaved by the Lee family. Nearly a decade later, another “trunk,” discovered in a barn, came to the Virginia Museum of History & Culture. Inside were the papers of James Jones and his descendants, members of an African American farming family from Prince Edward County, which presented a fascinating story of labor, political activism, and the struggles to realize the promises of emancipation. Join Sr. Director for Curatorial Affairs, Andrew Talkov, as we look at the stories of three remarkable lives nearly lost to history.