The George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia
by William A. Taylor
George Washington University
The Marshall Library is located on the campus of Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia. The library houses records primarily detailing U.S. military and diplomatic history from 1900–1960. The centerpiece of the collection is the George C. Marshall Papers, which highlight the life and times of a dominant figure in 20th century U.S. history. Another useful collection is the Marshall Foundation National Archives Project, which contains almost one million pages of records relevant to Marshall’s life duplicated from the National Archives in Washington and stored in Lexington. The library also houses over three hundred other collections ranging in size from the scant to the voluminous.
A successful research trip to the Marshall Library begins with proper planning. Finding-aids and a detailed topical guide are available on the library’s website. After consulting these aids, researchers should contact the library staff at least one month prior to visiting. Doing so will prevent any scheduling conflicts that could detract from a productive research visit. In addition, the library staff is able to suggest additional sources that are relevant to one’s particular research interests. They are also able to have specific records ready for use upon one’s arrival.
Researchers will find the Marshall Library both accessible and easy to use. Its one reading room and skilled staff make the library user-friendly. Researchers should register with the Archivist during their first visit and sign the reader log at the beginning of each day. The library has ample amenities that include lockers, wireless internet, and photocopy service. Laptops, scanners, and digital cameras are allowed. Since power outlets are limited, extra batteries or an extension cord might prove useful.
Lodging is plentiful in Lexington, with hotels available at $50–$100 per night. Transportation by car is easy, although finding parking on the VMI campus is more difficult during the academic year. A stroll down the brick sidewalks of downtown Lexington will lead one to aromatic coffee shops, diverse local restaurants, and unique stores. Familiar chain restaurants and fine dining are all within a five-minute drive from the library. Researchers should budget $75–$125 per night to cover both lodging and food costs. The George C. Marshall Foundation offers the Marshall–Baruch Research Scholarship for doctoral and postdoctoral research in 20th century U.S. military or diplomatic history, which could defray the costs of a research trip. Finally, to make the most of a visit to Lexington one should explore the Marshall Museum, located in the same building as the library, and the Lexington Visitor Center, located just outside the VMI campus.