History & Mission

The National Sporting Library & Museum in Middleburg, Virginia, is dedicated to preserving, promoting, and sharing the literature, art, and culture of equestrian, angling, and field sports.

Founded as the National Sporting Library in 1954, by George L. Ohrstrom, Sr. and Alexander Mackay-Smith, the institution has expanded to become a library, research facility and art museum with over 26,000 books and works of art in the collections. The John H. Daniels Fellowship program supports research and includes scholars from around the world. Information is shared through exhibits, lectures, seminars, publications and special events. Many of the programs are free and open to the public.

The Library and Museum are located in the beautiful historic village of Middleburg, Virginia. The NSLM consists of two buildings on the same campus. The Library, built in 1999, was designed to provide facilities for book stewardship and research. It has the Forrest E. Mars, Sr. Exhibit Center and the Founders’ Room for public events. While primarily a research center, the Library is open to the public. The historic building, Vine Hill, also located on the campus, was once occupied by the Library. Vine Hill has been renovated and expanded to house the new art Museum.

The National Sporting Library was founded in 1954 by George L. Ohrstrom, Sr., president of the Orange County Hunt, Alexander Mackay-Smith, editor of The Chronicle of the Horse, Lester Karow of Savannah, and Fletcher Harper, MFH Orange County. In 1955, George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. took over leadership of the board of directors and served for 50 years. From its inception, the NSL was built on the sporting book collection of its founders and subsequent donors and has evolved to become an exceptional resource. It was organized by Mackay-Smith as a non-circulating research library open to scholars, journalists, and casual visitors alike.

Original exhibitions are created in the Library exploring both the depth and the range of the 24,000 volume book collection. Literature, art and ephemera are combined to illustrate themes of interest to scholars and the general public. Visit the Forrest E. Mars, Sr. Exhibit Hall. Read about the current exhibition.

Over the years, the Library has been the recipient of several significant book collections including:

  • The Huth-Lonsdale-Arundel Collection
  • The Baron Ludwig von Hundersdorf Collection
  • The John H. and Martha Daniels Collection
  • The Margaret C. Woolums Collection
  • The Captain V. S. Littauer Collection
  • The F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room houses 16th-century volumes on classical equitation, the first edition (1653) of Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler (with 90 subsequent editions), early American shooting and fishing books, and rare volumes of sporting art. The oldest book in the collection was published in 1523.

The Library is strong in fiction, with works by Will James, R.S. Surtees, Irish writers Edith Somerville, Martin Ross and others. In addition, it houses private collections such as the papers of Harry Worcester Smith, sportsman, author, and Masters of Foxhounds Association founder. There are collections of early American sporting periodicals, including The Spirit of the Times and The American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine.