Museums small and large can be found throughout the Shenandoah Valley, with permanent displays and upcoming exhibits that preserve the area’s rich and culturally varied history.
Museum of the Shenandoah Valley
Opening at MSV February 17: “Hear My Voice—Native American Art of the Past and Present.” Displaying Native American art across centuries, a continent, and 35 indigenous cultures. Organized into three themes, this exciting exhibition will explore how Native American artists relate to the natural world, their community, and the outside world. Organized by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and on display at the MSV through July 22. The MSV is located a scenic hour and forty-minute drive from Washington, DC.
Newtown History Center
Visit the historic Newtown Tavern to view exhibits on Stephens City craftsmen, Civil War history, and town history. Historic district walking tour available. Open by appointment, December through May.
Celebrating 250 years of small town Valley life, this museum opened as a National Historic Landmark in 1970. Native American artifacts from the local area, a working model railroad of the 1930s, and Colonial and Victorian style rooms are among the sights. (Closed for the winter; reopening May 1, 2018.)
Luray Valley Museum
On the grounds of Luray Caverns and included in the ticket price. A collection of historic buildings has been restored to represent a small 19th century farming community. The main building displays decorative arts, items of clothing, early toys and artifacts of daily life from the 1750s to the 1920s.
Virginia Museum of the Civil War & New Market Battlefield State Historical Park
The museum concentrates on the Civil War in Virginia and displays artifacts from the Battle of New Market itself, plus photos, period firearms, and even a film, “The Field of Lost Shoes.” Take a self-guided tour of the 300- acre battlefield site and reflect on this May 15, 1864 conflict.
Plains District Memorial Museum
Railroading and farming were both major economic forces in the Valley’s history, and both are represented in this small museum in Timberville, about six miles west of New Market. Open Thursday through Sunday, 1 to 4 pm.
Virginia Quilt Museum
Quilts made in the 18th and 19th centuries up through the present day may be viewed, demonstrating practicality, craftsmanship and artistic flair. This unique museum also hosts special events, receptions and speakers, all centering around the magic of quilting. Upcoming exhibits, February 20-May 12th: Hollis Chatelain—Stories of West Africa; African American Quilters; African Textiles; Treasures from the Vault; and Wrapped in History—the Search for Virginia Quilts and Quiltmakers.
The Heritage Museum
See 19th Century folk art from the Valley, an Electric Map of Stonewall Jackson’s 1862 Valley Campaign, and “Invincible Spirit”, a 5,000 square-foot exhibit portraying Valley history. Native American artifacts, a replica of a potter’s kiln, period firearms and quilts are on display, and the recent “On the Homefront” depicts local activities of the Red Cross and other citizens during World Wars I and II. A bookstore and extensive genealogy library are on-site as well. Open April – October.
Frontier Culture Museum
Tour 18th and 19th century American farms, as well as those of early Europeans and Africans. Walk through an early American schoolhouse. See living history demonstrations. Attend lectures, fairs, festivals, concerts and a long list of other special events. Take the kids to many programs for schoolchildren and toddlers. The Frontier Culture Museum is open seven days a week, 360 days each year. Hours vary by season.
George C. Marshall Museum and Library
In history-rich Lexington, watch an introductory video and tour four main areas covering the General’s life. From his youth and student life at VMI, to his long Army service and Nobel Prize in 1953, this remarkable patriot’s life is represented. Lectures, seminars and special events are held throughout much of the year.
The first public museum in the Commonwealth, the VMI Museum collection preserves the heritage of Virginia Military Institute with 15,000 significant artifacts. Examples include the mounted hide of “Little Sorrel,” “Stonewall” Jackson’s favorite horse, to seven Medals of Honor awarded to VMI alumni. Many items were presented by the individuals who used them– “One of my VMI web belts Mama kept,” reads a handwritten note from General George Patton, Class of 1907). VMI alumni include Nobel Prize recipients, Pulitzer Prize winners, explorers, actors and political leaders.
Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library
Presidents Day is February 19th. Our 28th president was born in Staunton, and guided tours of his birthplace illuminate what life was like in the mid- to late 19 century. Don’t miss the President’s restored 1919 Pierce-Arrow limousine, or military memorabilia from WWI in the museum.
Stonewall Brigade Museum
Located in Verona (just north of Staunton), the museum houses photos, weapons, uniforms, artifacts and memorabilia of the 116th Infantry Regiment. Founded as militia in 1741,the 116th distinguished itself as the Stonewall Brigade during the Civil War, and landed in the first waves on Omaha Beach. Now named the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, the 116th has been mobilized and deployed repeatedly around the world — most recently to Bosnia, Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan.
Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest
Located between Bedford and Lynchburg, this historic octagonal home and beautiful plantation was built by President Thomas Jefferson as his personal retreat. Poplar Forest allows visitors to see the restoration of the home’s interior and wings as well as archaeology in progress. Closed for renovations right now; opening March 14th. Note: CSPAN visited in January; watch the segment online Feb. 17-18.
Banner Photo: 1700s Irish Farm, courtesy Frontier Culture Museum