VCU Libraries Gallery

Aerial Photography

Aerial photography emerged in the mid-nineteenth century when photographers captured images from hot air balloons for military reconnaissance and other purposes. The first modern birds’ eye view of the Medical College of Virginia (MCV), now the MCV Campus of Virginia Commonwealth University, dates from the institution’s centennial celebration in 1938. MCV President Dr. William T. Sanger (1887-1975) found aerial images of the growing campus useful public relations tools, displaying them in conference rooms and offices around the college. In 1947, MCV hired Melvin C. Shaffer (1926-2021), a former military medical photographer of note, as the head of the newly created Department of Visual Education. During his thirty-six-year career as director of Visual Education, Shaffer captured many aerial shots or piloted the plane, allowing a photographer to capture the memorable images displayed here. 

For additional information about Melvin Shaffer and his work, please view the finding aid for his papers located in Special Collections and Archives at the Health Sciences Library.