Preserving history

samantha riggen

Samantha Riggin wants to know more. More about the people she meets, more about the artifacts she encounters in her work, more about the stories that make up our history. She has what she calls “an unending desire to delve into a subject” and loves world history, cultural history, and—we especially love this one—Hokie history.

She is truly a lifelong learner who has committed to unwavering curiosity.

Her willingness to look beneath the surface serves her well in her role as curator for Virginia Tech’s Corps of Cadets Museum where she maintains the historic collections. Samantha brings a passion for stories and attention to detail to her job each day. As a result, in a little more than a year in the position, she has increased alumni involvement, cataloged an incredible amount of items, and started a new initiative to collect oral histories. Only someone who is deeply appreciative and curious about life would devote the amount of time and care she has to preserving this history and sharing important, courageous stories about daring leadership, unimaginable sacrifice, and heartfelt service.

Her nominator wrote, “Samantha dove headfirst into our collection, which could be described as daunting at best. Simply cataloging the tens of thousands of items we have stored in the basement of Newman Library is tedious, but you should see her light up as she talks about the people and stories behind every item, down to the last button. I have yet to see her empty-handed, as she is always carrying something to share with another staff member that might interest them. Her passion for the people behind the things seems to be her driving force.”

That passion means that Samantha is not content to interview Corps alumni and their families on campus and send them on their way. She will go to them if necessary.

“When she found the oldest known living alumnus of Virginia Tech, she took several trips to his home in Waynesboro, Virginia, and convinced him to return to campus for the first time in decades as an honored guest for the Homecoming pass in review,” her nominator wrote. “She caringly escorted him around a drastically different campus and was dedicated to ensuring that cadets could hear about their Corps 85 years ago. Her curiosity makes incredible things like that happen for our alumni and current cadets.”

She also drove to Florida to spend seven days sorting through the collection of a 1961 graduate and major general after his widow contacted her. She built a true friendship in the process.

Over the years, Samantha has worked as an antiques dealer, auctioneer, personal property appraiser, and project director. She has also worked as a teaching assistant and instructor for Virginia Tech’s Department of Religion and Culture. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history and museum studies from Chatham University and a master’s degree in material culture and public humanities from Virginia Tech.