Roanoke County Sheriff's deputies in 1938 - Salem Museum photo

Roanoke County Sheriff’s deputies in 1938

From the Salem Museum: For the fourth year, the Salem Museum is participating in the “Virginia’s Top Ten Endangered Artifact” program of the Virginia Association of Museums. Nominated this year for the increasingly popular statewide poll: a collection of photos from 1937 to 1943 taken for the Roanoke County Sheriff’s Office. And until August 23rd, anyone can take part in the online voting. “These photos certainly would count as endangered,” said John Long, Salem Museum Director. While the collection has been somewhat stabilized with archival, acid-free enclosures, many of the original negatives and photos require conservation, Long noted. “Some negatives are brittle, some photos faded, and there is little organization of the hundreds of envelopes. The entire collection would greatly benefit from a digitization effort. But the first step is raising awareness, and the Top 10 program will help us do just that.”

Click here for the Virginia’s Top Ten Endangered Artifact program web site.

(Continue reading for the rest of the news release.)

The images included in the collection are diverse. For instance, many of the photos record crime investigations of the day, including numerous shots of fingerprints, crime scenes, and photos of evidence such as jimmied windows or broken cash registers. Others show interesting local scenes, such as a local gas station after a fire, traffic accidents, or Salem street scenes during a flood and a blizzard.

Of great historical interest are 1941 head shots of members of the local Virginia Protective Force, a pre-WWII equivalent of the National Guard. Many of the men depicted went on to serve in WWII; at least one, Darden Harmon, died in the Pacific. Photos of a local women’s baseball team and a WWII propaganda display—a coffin reading “Rest in Peace Hitler”—have also been found.

Part of the collection will be on public display for the duration of the voting, with a convenient computer station set up for visitors to vote immediately. “Some photos, such as mug shots and occasionally gruesome images of crime victims, we won’t display due to privacy concerns,” noted Long. “However, on the whole, the collection is of great historical significance and should be preserved for the future.”

The “Endangered Artifact” campaign is a program of the Virginia Association of Museums (VAM). VAM is the resource network of the Virginia and Washington DC museum community, providing education, technical assistance, and advocacy. The program is designed to create awareness of the importance of preserving artifacts in care at museums, libraries and archives throughout the Commonwealth and in the District of Columbia.

This is the fourth year the Salem Museum has nominated an artifact. Previously, a set of records of an African American midwife from Salem, a ship’s flag from the D-Day landings, and the Preston Papers, a surprising set of historic documents found in a local attic, were nominated. The Preston Papers last year were the program’s “People’s Choice” winner, meaning the collection garnered more votes in the poll than any other item.

Supporters can see the Salem Museum nomination– plus some two dozen other nominated items–and vote by visiting from August 1st to August 23rd. A short Youtube video introducing viewers to the Roanoke County sheriff’s photos can be found at (or go to Youtube and search “salemhistorical”—one word).

Nominations will be reviewed by an independent panel of collections and conservation experts, and Top 10 designees, as well as “People’s Choice” designees, will be announced in September. The public voting will be one consideration used by the panel as they make their final selections.

The Salem Museum is located at 801 East Main Street in Salem, and is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 to 4, and Saturday from 10 to 3. No admission is charged for the Museum galleries.