Transit historians

June 16, 2015
Students build an exhibit on the history of Richmond's public transit.

By Damian Hondares, '17

When those of us in Laura Browder and Alexandra Byrum’s Busing in America class noticed the purple ribbon on the doors, we began to murmur nervously. We wondered if the exhibition we had curated was even worthy of such a formal opening ceremony.

The exhibition — “RIDE: Public Transit in Richmond Since 1888” — was the culmination of our semester-long class project. Once the ribbon was cut and the doors were opened to the public for the first time, our concerns were allayed.

“I was really pleased with the way the exhibition came together,” said Emily Lagan, '15.

Sophomore Ken Anderson, another classmate, was immediately drawn to a photograph of Richmond streetcar operators.

“You can tell so many stories through just one photograph, and that specific photo shows one of the starting points of the GRTC,” he said.

Our class conducted two history harvests where we recorded interviews with bus drivers, mechanics and other Greater Richmond Transit Co. employees about their artifacts and photos — objects and images that ultimately became part of the exhibition. The class used photographs and artifacts to juxtapose Richmond’s public transit history with its present.

Lagan said the class wanted to honor public transit workers. She was particularly impressed by the display case. “I was a little worried that we wouldn’t be able to do the drivers justice in portraying their work,” she said, “but I think we captured what we meant to. It was also great to see how happy they were to see their objects and stories on display.”

Indeed, the drivers and former GRTC employees in attendance were pleased with the final product. The grid of bus photographs proved a major draw, as employees and bus fanatics alike gathered to share memories. Many teared up at this exhibition honoring the drivers’ legacies while uniting a community and pointing toward the future of public transit in Richmond.

Editor's note: Damian Hondares, '17, was a member of the curating class. This fall, he'll be a student writer for the University of Richmond Magazine. Also, the museum, located at the GRTC's headquarters (301 East Belt Boulevard), welcomes visitors, but only by appointment. Tours include not only the museum itself but also a behind-the-scenes look at how GRTC operates today. To schedule a tour, contact public relations manager Carrie Rose Pace at or 804-358-3871, ext. 354.