The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley


In Winchester, on the land of the historic Glen Burnie estate, is one of the finest small museums I've ever had an opportunity to appreciate it. This is one of those small places with an obvious deep love of their topic, run by people dedicated to it.

The Museum of the Shenandoah valley is relatively small, having a single floor of exhibit space with additional space for meetings, a library, a small gift shop, and an unusually fine cafe that specializes in a variety of tea and scones. with a couple of offerings for actual meals.

The exhibit floor has five major divisions. One part of it is dedicated to the antiques and collectibles assembled by the most recent owners of the Glen Burnie house. These run from paintings, statues and furniture to quilts small textiles and handicrafts.

Adjacent to what might be termed the "fine art" wing is a superb collection of textiles (quilts) artifacts, furniture and items that breath life into the the frontier life and rural life of the Shenandoah valley. There are antiques from the local area crafted by local artisans or owned by local families for a long period of time.

A third area attempts to chronicle, a a small space some of the events of the history of the Shendoah valley and some of the culture of the area. This space is remarkably successful considering its compressed nature. The history stems from the ancient Native American peoples thought to the early nineteenth century touching upon such subjects as distilleries, the humble abode, and the nature and purpose of cow-bells. What's really nice is that this area is highly interactive with computer games for the kids and a number of videos. In addition there is a "cowbell" song that most visitors are reluctant to pursue because it makes such noise--but the Irrepressible with whom I travel eschews these mere mortal concerns.

The fourth area is dedicated to changing exhibits. In the case of our visit, it was dedicated to the photography of a person who might well be called the Ansel Adams of the Shenandoah--Hullihen Williams Moore. Beautiful black and white photographs of the national park really demonstrate the art of photography.

Finally, there is a small gallery of miniatures, and for those who like doll-house like things and miniature furniture and such, these are a treasure. Personally, I don't find these nearly as interesting as the female visitors who were accompanying me--as so we early parted ways with them spending some significant time in the miniature gallery and tea-shop and me visiting much of the rest of the museum.

Your museum visit starts with a context-setting film in a room built from recovered timbers of a 19th century barn. The docents and guides are extremely helpful, well-informed, and a real delight to talk with.

Right next door is the historic Glen Burnie house and gardens--also worth your time if you haven't visited them. This trip we did not take them in, wanting to spend some time instead really observing what the museum had to offer. But I've been through both before and it was among the more interesting tours of a house I've had the opportunity to participate in.

So, if you live in the area and you're looking for a day trip--you might consider a trip out to the Museum of the Shenandoah valley and Glen Burnie house and Gardens. It would reward your investment in time and money. One suggestion for the dedication of a Patsy Cline museum was that the people who ran this museum might also run the Patsy Cline when it was built and dedicated. I could think of no more felicitous decision. The work of the curators and staff in this small museum is far above and beyond what one might find in many more well-known institutions. The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley has much to be proud of.

(Oh, and the day we were there, the lawn beneath one large tree was covered with what looked (from a distance) like green apples and up-close looked like Osage oranges. They were, in fact, the commodious seed-pod coverings of black walnuts. What a wonderful autumnal welcome!)

For official site information--see here.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on November 5, 2007 7:13 AM.

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