Some museums open year-round

Planning, renovation goes on behind the scenes while open to public

Posted: February 4, 2014

The Winchester Star

Matthew Robertson (left), Museum of the Shenandoah Valley collections assistant, and Nancy Huth, MSV deputy director of arts and education, remove a card table from the Shenandoah Valley gallery at the museum, which is renovating three gallery rooms this winter. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)
Lee Robertson (left) and Garland Meehan, maintenence technicians and carpenters at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, dismantle textile cases for a museum renovation. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)

Editor’s note: This is the second of two parts on area museums during the winter. This part deals with those open year-round.


Winchester — Local museums and historic properties are using the cold winter months inside to plan a full year of changes.

These museums are still open for visitors, but that isn’t stopping them from moving forward with new exhibitions, renovations, relocations and restorations this winter.

Clarke County  Historical Association

The year-round Clarke County Historical Association used January to prepare for upcoming events this month at the museum, 32 E. Main St., Berryville, Director Laura Christiansen said.

A Valentine’s program will show children how to make traditional valentines from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

Another program will highlight the association’s inventory of 8,000 individual records for Green Hill Cemetery in Berryville, which is a great genealogical resource, she said.

“There wasn’t a resource if there was an unmarked burial or a marker was missing,” she said. “It is going to be a really big help because with the burial records we will have more information.”

The museum has also created an index of aerial photos of Clarke County from the 1930s to help people researching properties easily locate them in the records, Christiansen said. She hopes to put that resource online.

This year, the museum will publish two journal proceedings instead of one, she said. The first will feature women’s diaries from Clarke County during the Civil War that staff have transcribed. The second, which will come out in late summer, will be diaries from the Randolph family.

The society is accepting entries for the spring Art at the Mill show, which will be held from April 26 to May 11 at the Burwell-Morgan Mill, Millwood.

This fall, the association will celebrate its 75th anniversary with events at the museum and the mill, she said. “It is exciting. We are looking forward to a really good year.”

Josephine School  Community Museum

The majority of the plans for the Josephine School Community Museum, 303 Josephine St., Berryville, will be finalized at the next board meeting, President Brenda Jones said.

However, the museum has already scheduled its 10th annual Black History Dramatic Reading contest at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 15 at the museum, she said. The snow date is Feb. 22.

The contest is open to any child in grades 2 to 5. The contest focuses on readings of selections by or about African Americans, she said. There is a winner at each grade level and an overall winner.

“The focus is to encourage students to become familiar with black authors and literature and enjoy the experience of oral interpretation of their selections,” she said.

To register for the contest, contact Jones at 540-955-5512 or

The museum is open from 1 to 3 p.m. every Sunday and by appointment from January to November, she said.


Long Branch Plantation

After a big reorganization and shift in focus in 2013, the coming year at Long Branch Plantation in Millwood is about putting those new plans into action, Executive Director Nicholas Redding said.

The house at 830 Long Branch Lane has a full calendar, which started with three screenings related to the “Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle.” The series provides films about the long journey of the civil rights movement, he said.

Long Branch will show a film at 1 p.m. Feb. 22 from the series in recognition of Black History Month. The event is free and open to the public.

In March, the historic house will launch its Cabin Fever Speaker Series, which will feature “everything from debates to storytelling to regular lectures in format,” he said.

Beyond programming, the staff is working on plans for an heirloom kitchen garden and recreated slave garden that will be planted in the spring, Redding said. “Agriculture and food is such an important part of our history. We wanted a place where we could talk about that outside.”

Inside the house, staff plan to upgrade some of the HVAC systems and work on shoring up a portion of the roof, which will allow them to complete some interior plaster repairs, he said.

Museum of the Shenandoah Valley

In November, the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, 901 Amherst St., announced a 10-year, $26.4 million master plan to expand from a small museum to a regional institution.

Museum staff will be busy in 2014 with the planning and implementation of the first goals in that master plan on top of a regular schedule of events for the year ahead, said Julie Armel, deputy director of community relations.

The first part of the year will be dedicated to the completion of phase one of the master plan, a 2-year, $4.2 million project that preserves and reinterprets the Glen Burnie House and restores the aging Glen Burnie Gardens, Armel said. The re-opening date for the house will be announced early this month.

Work recently began on a gallery renovation of three decorative arts rooms to transform them into one large “gallery space that will be very versatile and always feature Shenandoah Valley focused exhibitions,” Armel said.

The first exhibition in the new space, “Safes of the Valley,” will open May 11 with dozens of 18th and 19th century punched tin paneled food safes, commonly referred to as pie safes, she said.

Concurrently, the staff is taking some of the best pieces of furniture and pottery that were on view and updating display cases in the Shenandoah Valley Gallery, she said.

Museum staff are also looking forward to the opening Sept. 7 of “Second Time Around: The Hubcap as Art,” which will feature more than 250 hubcaps that have been turned into works of art by artists from the United States and 38 other countries, Armel said. “They are all environmentally inspired. This will not only showcase contemporary art, but it will highlight the environment in a variety of ways.”

The museum is also busy with regular programming and conservation work on recent acquisitions, Armel said. It is looking for more help with that and plans to recruit new docents and volunteers with a meet and greet event at 5 p.m. Feb. 11 that is open to the public.

Old Court House  Civil War Museum

Winter hours are in effect at the Old Court House Civil War Museum, 20 N. Loudoun St., which is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and from 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays, through May 1, said Maricarol Miller, museum director.

Planning is underway for the George Washington Sesquicentennial Ball to be held March 1 at First Presbyterian Church. The event is open to the public with tickets at $20 for an individual and $35 for a couple.

For the last three months, volunteers have been working on a project to revamp some of the text on the walls upstairs, she said. “We are not going to redo the exhibits. We are still going to exhibit the relics from the battles in the Shenandoah Valley. We are just going to update the look of it.”

The project has been slow going because it is done when volunteers have time to work on it, “but we keep moving forward a little bit at a time,” she said.

The museum will also participate in sesquicentennial events in the fall relating to the Third Battle of Winchester and the Battle of Cedar Creek, although she is not sure of what involvement yet.

“The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation will probably oversee it all. On that weekend, we hope to have various programs here to educate people about what was happening,” she said.


Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum

The biggest change by far in 2014 for the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum will be its upcoming move from 54 S. Loudoun St. to its new location at 19 W. Cork St., said Mary Braun, executive director.

People are invited for a final sendoff of the old location from 4 to 6 p.m. Feb. 28 with refreshments and music. The event will be free and open to the public, she said.

The museum will be closed in March while the exhibits are moved and re-installed along with new ones at the Cork Street location. The new building is scheduled to open in April.

“At this point, they are starting interior finishes like painting and finishing out the windows,” Braun said, adding that the big task now is creating access to and finishing the roof, which has been dependent on weather.

“I am told we need to open as a whole. Hopefully we can do that because it would be fun to share the roof with everybody on opening day,” she said.


— Contact Laura McFarland at