801 East Main Street
Salem, Virginia 24153
(540)389-6760 info@salemmuseum.org

UPCOMING EVENTS

 Salem Museum & Historical Society News

Recent Press Releases:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Salem “Ghosts” To Tell Their Stories October 18 and 21

            In 1915, Edgar Lee Masters’ classic Spoon River Anthology introduced America to the denizens of a fictional Illinois cemetery.  Masters gave voice to the folks buried there, allowing them to tell their typical American stories in their own words—a collection of ghostly autobiographies.
            Eighty-three years later, the Salem Museum staff began to wonder what those buried in Salem’s historic East Hill Cemeteries would tell us if they could speak for an evening.  “We had already scheduled a Halloween event without knowing what we wanted to do,” recalled Museum Director John Long.  “We decided that it would be fun and educational to raise the dead and let real people tell real stories about Salem’s past.”
            “Of course, raising the dead proved beyond the capabilities of the Museum,” Long laughed.  “But we were able to recruit some wonderful volunteer actors.”
            Thus was born the increasingly popular Salem Museum Ghost Walk.  More a living history lesson than the typical haunted Halloween event, the Ghost Walk brings to life actual people buried in Salem’s historic East Hill Cemeteries.  Each tells about his or her life, and taken together the “ghosts” unveil the history of Salem itself.  Now in its seventeenth year, it has become one of the valley’s most popular October events.
            “A lot of events like this have a lifespan of a few years, then are retired,” said Long. “The Ghost Walk just keeps going. I think that’s a testament to the quality of the acting and the educational nature of the presentations.”
            “Ghosts” scheduled to “haunt” this year include Revolutionary War hero General Andrew Lewis and his wife Elizabeth; Charles Johnston, an captive of hostile Indians on the frontier in 1790; and Elizabeth Campbell, an early leader in Salem’s African-American community. Some Confederate Soldiers will engage in a bit of a boastful reunion, while famed pilot Knox Martin (“Virginia’s Aviation Pioneer”) will describe his daring exploits in the air. Some gossipy teenagers will share the shocking and romantic news of their day: a scandalous elopement in 1902.
            All of the scripts are carefully researched and are as historically accurate as possible. “We do a good deal of investigation for the scripts,” noted Long. “Sometimes we have to take a guess or compress a longer story into a few sentences, but what you’ll hear on the Ghost Walk is what actually happened here in town.”
            The Ghost Walk will be staged on October 18 and 21, with tours leaving the Museum every fifteen minutes from 6:30 to 8:30. From there guests will proceed down Main Street and into East Hill Cemetery. Along the way they will meet about ten “ghosts” eager to share their life stories.
            To control the size of the groups, it is strongly encouraged that guests call and schedule a tour time.  Reservations can be made by calling 389-6760 or emailing info@salemmuseum.org. The cost is $7.50 for adults and $5 for students.  In case of rain, the event will be staged inside the Museum building.
            The Ghost Walk involves a walk of some distance, part of it uphill. It may not be suitable for those who have trouble walking, and all should wear comfortable shoes. While not a scary event, it may not be suitable for very young children. 
            The Salem Museum, located in the historic Williams-Brown House of Longwood Park, is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 am to 4 pm, and Saturday from noon to 3 pm. No admission is charged for the Museum galleries.

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Salem, Virginia                                                                                                  September 16, 2014

Contact:  Cameron Vest, Chairman SFAC

Phone Number: (540) 529-4876, Email:  cvest@associatedpackaging.com

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/artontheway14

Salem's First Annual Art on the Way Art Show Continues Late Artist Harriett Stokes’ Tradition

Salem Fine Arts Commission, City of Salem, and Salem Museum & Historical Society present the First Annual Art on the Way Art Show on Saturday, October 4, 2014.  The festivities commence at noon and continue until 6:00p.m. along newly named Harriett Stokes Way located behind the Salem Museum & Historical Society adjacent to Longwood Park in Salem, Virginia.

Art on the Way is dedicated to the memory of local Salem, pioneering artist Harriett Stokes, responsible for 40 years of the successful Art in the Alley art show.  She was an accomplished fine artist and considered the "grande dame of art in the valley"; most importantly, Harriett is most remembered as a passionate mentor and for giving back to the arts community with art education.  “We hope that Art on the Way brings back the tradition and community enthusiasm for visual arts that Art in the Alley generated for so many years,” remarked Salem Fine Arts Commission Chairman, Cameron Vest, “we hope that Art on the Way continues to grow for generations to come.”  The show features prominent local and regional fine artists contributing original works judged by esteemed juror and curator, Leah Stoddard, awarding $1000 to the first place winner.

The outdoor juried art show will be held rain or shine.  Live music begins at 1:00 and features The Band Concord as well as performers from the Music Lab from the Jefferson Center.   The festivities and family fun also include Parkway Brewery and Hot Stones Pizza.  "Like" us on Facebook, www.facebook.com/artontheway14, and keep up with the latest information.

Inside the Salem Museum, visitors will be able to experience three art exhibits (as well as the informative displays on local history). Children’s author and artist Cece Bell is the subject of the featured exhibit on the first floor, especially highlighting her new memoir “El Deafo.” Works by famed local illustrator Walter Biggs will be exhibited on the second floor of the museum, and a commemorative exhibition of posters from the decades of Art in the Alley will also be on display as a loving tribute to founder Harriett Stokes.

The Salem Fine Arts Commission is a Salem City Council appointed body assigned to "to inform, encourage, and involve the Salem community in the fine arts."  The Commission seeks to bring the arts community together for activities and opportunities to share the varied talents of our community.

 


Recently Discovered Cache of Documents at the Salem Museum Earn Accolade as “People’s Choice” in Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts Poll

The Preston Papers, an important collection of local documents recently found in the attic of an old house in Salem, has earned statewide recognition. In a poll designed to raise awareness of the threat to Virginia’s cultural heritage, the papers have been designated the “People’s Choice.” Online public voting for the “Top Ten Endangered Artifact” program of the Virginia Association of Museums ended on Saturday, with the Salem Museum’s nomination garnering 4,103 votes, more than any other museum in the Commonwealth or the District of Columbia.

The Preston Papers comprise a previously unknown collection of documents, revealing a rare glimpse into the Roanoke Valley in the decades following of the Civil War. The collection was recently found and donated to the Salem Museum. They were collected, primarily, by Charles Isaac Preston, sheriff of Roanoke County in the 1870s, and were discovered in the attic of his house, Preston Place on West Main Street (likely the oldest residence in Salem). The papers deal both with Preston’s official duties as sheriff and with his personal business dealings, and may well be the most significant cache of papers found in the Roanoke Valley in decades, according to Salem Museum Director and local historian John Long.

“We are thrilled with this designation,” said Long. “It not only pays tribute to this important set of documents, but it shows the public something we already knew: we have the greatest supporters anywhere. They embraced this nomination and made it a success.”

If voting has ended, the work has not. “Our plan now is to continue cataloging, studying, and interpreting the Preston Papers,” said Long. “Every time we turn another page we learn something new. It will take a while to get through it all, but in the end we will know things we never knew before about our community’s history.”

 Long estimates that it will take months, perhaps years, to fully analyze and conserve the hundreds of documents, which range from large ledgers to small scraps of torn notepaper. Here is a sampling of some of the items found in this collection:

·      local business license rosters and tax lists, including some seemingly naming every African-American male in the county just after the Civil War

·      Stock certificates and other documentation for a previously unknown company manufacturing mariner’s compasses in Salem

·      Documents dealing with a local Grange, a fraternal group for farmers not previously known to have existed in the Roanoke Valley, and literature for Virginia’s 1893 Populist Party (a political movement which grew out of the granges)

·      an 1865 contract between Preston and a man assumed to be a former slave, hired to work now as a freeman

Some of the documents will remain on display in the museum lobby. The rest of the Top Ten list will be announced this week by the Virginia Association of Museums.

The Salem Museum is located at 801 East Main Street in Salem, and is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 to 4, and Saturday from 10 to 3. No admission is charged for the Museum galleries.

 


Book Party & Exhibit Celebrate Local ARTIST’s Memories of Growing Up Deaf in Salem

            A new exhibit and book launch party at the Salem Museum celebrate El Deafo!, the nationally acclaimed comic memoir for children by local artist and writer Cece Bell. For the opening of the exhibit “One Artist’s Story of Growing Up Deaf” on Saturday September 6, from 3-5 pm, Cece will be on hand to talk about the process of creating El Deafo! and sign copies of her new book. The event is free and open to the public.

            The book tells Cece’s story of finding her inner super-hero as a girl dealing with the reality of growing up deaf in the 1970s in Salem. Early reviews of the book have suggested that El Deafo! is “a triumph” (100 Scope Notes, School Library Journal) that is “worthy of a super-hero” (Kirkus).

            The museum's new exhibit will not only include original artifacts and artwork from the creation of El Deafo!, but will also include features on many of the local people and places detailed in the book. In addition, works from Cece's longstanding career as a children's book writer and illustrator—including images from her popular Sock Monkey series—will be on display.

              While children who are dealing with deafness may find the book El Deafo! of particular interest, the story it tells is important for all children and adults. As Publisher Susan Van Metre of Amulet Books writes in her letter introducing El Deafo!, Cece’s struggle to find a friend is something everyone can identify with, whether or not they’ve dealt with disability: “We’ve all felt the frustration of an exterior that fails to project the person we are inside, and longed for a way to show the world—or even just the person at the next desk—that we are worth getting to know.”

            It is a book not only for deaf and hearing children, however, but for the adults who inhabit their world as well. “I'm excited for teachers, and adults in general, to read it,” says Bell. “Perhaps the book will serve as a reminder to treat all kids the same way, regardless of their abilities. But I'm mostly excited about making people laugh. In spite of its sometimes heavy subject matter, it's ultimately supposed to be a funny book.”

            In addition, local readers may find of special interest the view this new memoir gives to the people and places of the Roanoke Valley in the 1970s.  Prominent in the book are places like Academy Street School, G.W. Carver Elementary, the Broad Street neighborhood and Brooks-Byrd Pharmacy (which, Cece jokes, is a location “no book about Salem, Virginia, is allowed to exist without”).

            Bell, who grew up in Salem, lives in an old church in the New River Valley with her husband Tom Angleberger, author the Origami Yoda series. She has written and illustrated several books for children, including the Geisel Honor book Rabbit & Robot: The Sleepover; some of her other works include Itty Bitty,Bee-Wigged, the Sock Monkey series, and the illustrations for Crankee Doodle (written by Tom).

             The exhibit, located in the Powell Gallery of the Salem Museum, continues through December 13. The Salem Museum is located at 801 East Main Street in Salem, and is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 to 4, and Saturday from 10 to 3. The museum has a giftshop and the galleries are available for rental events. No admission is charged for touring the museum.

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Recently Discovered Documents Nominated by Salem Museum as one of “Virginia’s Top 10 Most Endangered Artifacts”

For the third year, the Salem Museum is participating in the “Virginia’s Top Ten Endangered Artifact” program of the Virginia Association of Museums. Nominated this year for the increasingly popular statewide poll: a previously unknown collection of brittle documents, revealing a rare glimpse into the Roanoke Valley in the aftermath of the Civil War. And until August 23rd, anyone can take part in the online voting.

The Preston Papers is a collection of documents recently found and donated to the Salem Museum. They were collected, primarily, by Charles Isaac Preston, sheriff of Roanoke County in the 1870s, and were discovered in the attic of his house, Preston Place on West Main Street, likely the oldest residence in Salem. The papers deal both with Preston’s official duties as sheriff and with his personal business dealings, and altogether comprise a very significant collection.

“The Preston Papers may well be the most significant cache of papers found in the Roanoke Valley in decades,” said John Long, museum director and local historian. “It will take us months to go through all of the scraps of paper, but already we’ve discovered things about Salem’s past that were previously unknown.”

For instance, the little town in the mountains of Virginia once helped ocean-going vessels navigate the seven seas. The “Custer Automatic Registering Compass Corporation” manufactured maritime compasses for a few years in the 1860s. Preston was a stockholder in the short-lived company, and the stock certificates and corporate information he saved are the only evidence ever found locally of the firm’s existence.

Another example: Preston was active in a local Grange, a fraternal group, formally known as the “Patrons of Husbandry,” which tried to build unity (and hopefully build political and economic power) among farmers. Very influential in the Midwest, no Grange was known to exist in the Roanoke Valley--until now.

The Preston Papers were found in a large, dilapidated cardboard box where they had been dumped for decades and stored in the un-air-conditioned attic of the old house. Through the years, heat took a toll on the fragile documents, silverfish nibbled at the paper, and the soot from roofing shingles filtered into the box. The paper has yellowed, ink has faded, and in some cases the acidic ink has eaten through the paper.

“These documents are very much endangered,” said Long. “They need basic conservation in addition to cataloging and evaluation of their historical significance. But the first step is raising awareness, and the Top 10 program will help do that.” Long estimates that it will take months, perhaps years, of work to fully analyze and conserve the hundreds of documents, which range from large ledgers to small scraps of torn notepaper.

Here is a sampling of some of the other items found in this collection--some will be on display in the Museum lobby for the duration of the voting, with a computer station set up for visitors to vote immediately:

 

·      local business license rosters and tax lists, including some seemingly naming every African-American male in the county just after the Civil War

·      ads for such local things as the Lord Botetourt Apple (an extinct variety once grown here), the Barnett House Hotel on Main Street, and a traveling comedy which appeared in Roanoke in 1891

·      an 1865 contract between Preston and a man assumed to be a former slave, hired to work now as a freeman

·      timetables for the Norfolk and Western Railroad and the local streetcar lines.

·      literature for the Populist Party (a political movement which grew out of the granges) in Virginia in 1893.

 

“Suffice it to say that we suddenly know much more about our Valley in the 1870s and 80s than ever before,” noted Long.

The “Endangered Artifact” campaign is a program of the Virginia Association of Museums (VAM). VAM is the resource network of the Virginia and Washington DC museum community, providing education, technical assistance, and advocacy. The program is designed to create awareness of the importance of preserving artifacts in care at museums, libraries and archives throughout the Commonwealth and in the District of Columbia.

This is the third year the Salem Museum has nominated an artifact. Previously, a set of records of an African American midwife from Salem and a ship’s flag from the D-Day landings were nominated. “We’re very enthusiastic about the Top Ten program,” said Long. “Our first year we had a great response to the midwife records--we even had visits from people who had been delivered by this much-loved midwife. Then with the ship’s flag we made contact--and got donations--from people across the country who had a connection to the ship in question.”

Supporters can see the Salem Museum nomination-- and nearly three dozen other nominated items--and vote by visiting www.vatop10artifacts.org from August 4th – August 23rd. A short Youtube video introducing viewers to the Preston Papers can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCwJJjXDFyE (or go to Youtube and search “Preston Papers”).

Nominations will be reviewed by an independent panel of collections and conservation experts, and Top 10 designees, as well as “People’s Choice” designees, will be announced in September. The public voting will be one consideration used by the panel as they make their final selections.

The Salem Museum is located at 801 East Main Street in Salem, and is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 to 4, and Saturday from 10 to 3. No admission is charged for the Museum galleries.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Salem Museum Launches Dreams: Book Party for New Young Adult Novel by Local Authors

             The Salem Museum will be the launch site for a new book by local authors Mary Crockett Hill and Madelyn Rosenberg, on Saturday July 12, from 3-5 pm.

            The young adult novel Dream Boy revolves around a teenage girl who is her small town's biggest dreamer—until the literal boy of her dreams walks into her chemistry class. Soon, she realizes that good dreams aren't the only thing showing up in town.

            With a mix of romance, fantasy, suspense, and humor, Dream Boy has been hailed by Kirkus Review as “intriguing” and “nicely rounded entertainment” and by Booklist as “an original, twisty paranormal romance.” Local readers, however, may be most interested in the book's local references. Set in Chilton, a fictional town between the Roanoke and New River Valleys, the book abounds with references to local places and history.

            “The real Texas Tavern is called the Texas Grill in the book, and we placed it in Chilton, but the description is unmistakeably the Texas Tavern,” says Hill.

            “Since we both grew up in Southwest Virginia, that was the most logical place for the story to take place,” adds Rosenberg. “By the end, the town of Chilton became a sort of character in the book.”

            Dream Boy is the first book co-written by the two writing partners, who are longtime friends.

            The book party at the museum is free and open to the public. It will feature giveaways, book talk, refreshments, and a book signing. All proceeds from book sales will go to support the Salem Museum & Historical Society.

            “Due to the economy, we've had to be creative in how we generate revenue. We've found that book launches can help raise funds,” says Salem Museum Director John Long. “In the space of four months, we'll be hosting three book launches. We sold out of Aviation in Roanoke by Nelson Harris and Marshall Harris the night we launched it last May, so we'll make sure to have plenty of copies of Dream Boy on hand.”

            Hill, who now works part time at the museum, is also hopeful that the launch can serve as a fundraiser. “As soon as I knew the publication date, I contacted the museum about hosting the event. I love the museum, so I'd love nothing more than if book sales could help out this great community organization,” she says. 

            Saturday's party will feature giveaways, prizes, book talk, food and fun. All are welcome. Starting next week, Dream Boy will be available at the museum and other booksellers in the region and online.

           The Salem Museum is located at 801 East Main Street in Salem, and is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 to 4, and Saturday from 10 to 3. No admission is charged.

 

 

New Exhibit Features Art of Magazine Illustration  

            Joe Palotas has always had a passion for the arts. From the time he first picked up the pencil to draw the Loch Ness monster, to his current position as the head of the Salem Art Center, Palotas has been driven to create.

            It is Palotas’ work as a magazine illustrator, however, that will be featured in new exhibit at the Salem Museum. “The Art of Healthy Living: Our Health Magazine Illustrations of Joe Palotas” opens at the Salem Museum on Thursday, July 3, and runs through August 16.

            Palotas, his wife Jessica, and their two children recently moved to the Roanoke Valley. He opened Salem Art Center last August, offering afterschool art classes and summer art camps. Palotas is a member of the Salem Fine Arts Commission and has worked as a Taubman Museum Outreach Instructor. In addition to his work as a magazine illustrator, he has illustrated book covers and children’s books. 

            “We’re excited to have Joe share his work at the museum because it ties into a few different things we have going on here. For one, the fact that this is an exhibit of magazine illustrations connects the art work of Walter Biggs, one of Salem’s favorite sons,” says museum director John Long.

            Biggs was a nationally renowned magazine illustrator in the 1920s and 30s, the heyday of illustrative artwork. The Salem Museum currently has an exhibit of Biggs’ art work on display in the Middleton Gallery, just down the hall from Palotas’ exhibit.

            “Joe Palotas’ illustrations are from covers of Our Health magazine,” adds Long. “So the exhibit also ties in to the museum’s current featured exhibit, a medical history of the Roanoke Valley from its earliest days to the present.”  

            The Salem Museum is located at 801 East Main Street in Salem, and is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 to 4, and Saturday from 10 to 3. No admission is charged, but donations are accepted. The museum regularly features local artists and is available for event rental.  

The History of Local Medicine is Subject of New Exhibit in Salem

            A new exhibit at the Salem Museum might not be for folks afflicted with phamarcophobia--the fear of medical treatment. But everyone else will find it a fascinating look at the development of medicine in the Roanoke Valley.

            “Most people understand that the Roanoke Valley is a center of medical care for our end of the state today,” said Museum Director John Long. “But fewer realize that it’s always been so.”

            From the first “hospital” offering dubious treatments in an old stagecoach stop, to the modern, massive facilities of the Carilion and HSA systems, the Valley has always been a place for people to come for healing.

            “The Healing Arts: A Medical History of the Roanoke Valley” opens Saturday, June 21st, in the Powell Gallery of the Salem Museum. The exhibition is timed to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Health Focus, formerly the Lewis-Gale Medical Foundation. Health Focus and Lewis-Gale were major contributors of artifacts, images and information for the exhibit.

            “There is a great story here to tell,” noted Long. “Older folks will recall some of the doctors and even some of the smaller local hospitals we highlight. Folks might miss the days of physician house calls. But I think everyone will be glad that medical treatments and technology have improved over time.”

              The exhibit utilizes the historic collection of Health Focus as well as items from the Museum’s own collection to illuminate the medical past. Prominent physicians from local history are featured, including Dr. Warren Moorman, who not only was instrumental in starting Health Focus, but also helped establish the Salem Museum.

             “You probably won’t be surprised to see some images of early hospitals and some archaic medical devices in a display like this,” said Long. “But some things will surprise you.” For instance, why a red children’s wagon?

             “Dr. Bruce Hagadorn, who advised us on the exhibit, used to put children at ease by transporting them to the O.R. in a wagon, instead of an intimidating gurney,” explained Long. “It’s just one of the unexpected stories we get to tell.”

             The Art Cart is another. The Lewis-Gale Foundation once commissioned dozens of works by local artist for patients’ rooms at the hospital. After you checked in, the Art Cart would come by and let you choose a painting for your room which you found soothing or enjoyable-- a testament to the therapeutic benefits of the arts.

             Long was also gratified to tell the forgotten story of Salem’s first hospital, opened in 1909 by doctors Ford and Nolen in an old brick house on College Avenue. The facility did not survive long, however: it closed its doors within a few months when Dr. Nolen, trying to heal a patient, suddenly dropped dead in mid-treatment. “Early hospitals were often associated only with one or two physicians, and this sort of tragedy could quickly shut a place down,” said Long.

            To illustrate how medicine has changed over time, three “case studies” are presented: a broken bone early in the 20th Century, a labor and delivery in the 1940s, and a tonsillectomy in the ‘60s. Each case study explains how the patient would have been treated and what it would take to get a successful outcome. “Visitors will find it enlightening, and no doubt make them thankful they don’t live back then,” Long said.

            Lest the doctors get all the attention, a section of the exhibit is dedicated to the hardworking nurses of the past--the unsung heroines of the medical profession. Three local epidemics in local history-- smallpox, influenza, and polio-- are also explored and explained.

            “There’s a lot of medical history here, but we also want to tell the story of Health Focus,” noted Long. For 50 years the foundation has encouraged health education, sponsored scholarships, and in general made a great difference in the community.

            “We think this will be a popular exhibit,” noted Long. “But you’ll have to come here to see it. We don’t make housecalls.”

            The exhibit, located in the Powell Gallery of the Salem Museum, continues through August. The Salem Museum is located at 801 East Main Street in Salem, and is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 to 4, and Saturday from 10 to 3. No admission is charged for the Museum galleries.

 

SALEM HONORS LOCAL ART LEGEND 

A new historic marker honoring local art legend Walter Biggs will be unveiled Tuesday, June 24, at 10 a.m., at the corner of College Avenue and the Boulevard in Salem. A joint effort of the City of Salem, Roanoke College  and the Salem Museum & Historical Society, the marker provides a permanent memorial to one of Salem's favorite sons. 

Like Norman Rockwell, Walter Biggs was a nationally renowned artist whose illustrations appeared in such magazines as Harper’s, Ladies Home Journal, Cosmopolitan and others. Biggs was primarily active as an illustrator in the 1920s and 30s, but he continued as a prolific artist to the end of his life in 1968.

The marker honoring Biggs was approved by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

ABOUT WALTER BIGGS: 

Walter Biggs was born just west of Salem, at Big Spring in Elliston, and moved to Salem as a boy. Though his parents sent him to college to study engineering, his love of drawing and painting led him to drop out and apply to a prestigious New York art school, where he studied under the famous Robert Henri. Though he became a successful painter of fine art, it was his illustrations—in books, magazines, and advertisements—that made his career.

Biggs' illustrations were featured in such magazines as Harper’s, Ladies Home Journal, Cosmopolitan and others. His work earned the praise of Norman Rockwell, and he won a gold medal from the American Watercolor Society in 1951. The Society of Illustrators inducted Biggs into their Hall of Fame in 1963.

Biggs kept a studio in New York for many years, but he returned to Salem to care for his aging mother and sister. Behind his home on the Boulevard, he built himself a studio to continue his work, in which he also painted his hometown as he saw it and remembered it.  

Biggs became a beloved figure about town, the favorite son who made it on the national art scene. In later years he served as artist-in-residence at Roanoke College, tutored promising pupils, and donated art to charitable causes. Walter Biggs died in 1968.

The Salem Museum features an exhibition of art by Walter Biggs, entitled "Favorite Son: The Hometown Works of Walter Biggs" The Museum is free and open to the public Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.  


70th Anniversary of D-Day Celebrated with New Exhibit in Salem

A new exhibit at the Salem Museum commemorates the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion with a unique look at one World War II troop transport, the USAT General George W. Goethals, and its role in that epic campaign.

Used to ferry men and equipment in the Atlantic during and after WWII, the Goethals was operated by the United States Army and for the most part carried out routine and uneventful voyages during the war. In June 1944, however, the Goethals took part in the D-Day invasion, one of the most dramatic and well remembered moments in the war.

The June 6th D-Day landing in Normandy was one of most difficult seaborne invasions in history and contributed significantly to the Allied victory in World War II.

“The fact that much of the ship’s story survives is by sheer coincidence, and the fact that we have such significant artifacts to tell the story of the Goethals is even more of a coincidence,” said Salem Museum Director John Long. It was a series of chance encounters that made the exhibit possible.

The first coincidence: a ship flag, logs of the Goethal’s activities, and photos of the vessel were donated to the Salem Museum many years ago by the widow of an officer who served aboard the ship. Her husband had attended Roanoke College, but had no other particular connection to Salem.

However, it was only recently as Long began to research the ship and relics that the full story, and the ship’s forgotten connection to one of WWII’s most important operations, was uncovered.

“The flag was described in our records simply as a navy flag, no other explanation,” said Long, who also teaches WWII history at nearby Roanoke College. “But we discovered, among other interesting data, that the Goethals was not a naval vessel; it was a ship of the United States Army. It is a little known fact that the army operated more ships in WWII than the navy did!”

More poignantly, Long noted, this ship was significant because it was involved in Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy in June, 1944, more commonly known as the D-Day invasion.

“The Goethals served in that campaign by bringing elements of the 2nd Infantry Division to Omaha Beach on June 7, the second day of the fight,” said Long. On that day, the ship’s personnel came under fire and witnessed, among other things, the sinking of the Susan B. Anthony, another troop transport in the flotilla.

The Goethals was credited with being the first troop transport to arrive at Omaha Beach (earlier troops hit the beach only from smaller landing craft).

The other coincidence leading to this exhibit involves something the crewmen of the Goethals never imagined: Youtube.

After the Salem Museum posted a video describing the ship’s flag online (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yINE4VY_mGA ), Rick Pitz of San Jose, CA, contacted the Museum. His father, William Pitz, had served on the Goethals, and as a signalman likely hoisted the flags in the Museum collection. After a flurry of email correspondence, Pitz made the trek to Salem with his mother to see the Goethals collection and meet with Long. In his father’s memory, Pitz made a donation to fund the new exhibition.

“Of course, this summer marks the 70th Anniversary of D-Day,” noted Long. “It’s the right time to tell this compelling story.”

After WWII, the Goethals was tasked with ferrying European “war brides” and the children of American servicemen to the US to begin their new lives. When the maritime arm of the Army was discontinued, the ship was transferred to the Navy, continuing to serve in the Atlantic through the Korean War period. She was inactivated in 1959 and scrapped in 1971.

In another interesting local coincidence, Long discovered that the Goethals had a sister ship named for a Salem native. The USAT David C. Shanks was another army transport of the same class, serving in the Pacific Theater, and was named for the celebrated general, raised in Salem, who commanded the embarkation point in New Jersey that sent American soldiers to Europe in WWI.

The exhibit features flags from Goethal’s, excerpts from the ship logs, period photographs of the ship and crew, and snapshots taken during the Normandy campaign.

The exhibit, located in the Logan Library of the Salem Museum, continues through the summer. The Salem Museum is located at 801 East Main Street in Salem, and is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 to 4, and Saturday from 10 to 3. No admission is charged for the Museum galleries.

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

The Salem Museum to host “Block Party Blues” on May 17

             The music will be blue, the grass will be green, the food will be delicious and the company even better at the Salem Museum’s third outdoor fundraising concert. “Block Party Blues” on Sautrday, May 17th will feature the impressive local talents of the Rhythm and Grooves band, with proceeds supporting the completion of the unfinished areas of the museum.

             The concert will be held on May 17 from 5 to 10 behind the museum, adjacent to the lovely Longwood Park. The Museum’s Veteran’s Plaza will serve as the venue, and eager blues fans can spread out blankets or bring lawn chairs to enjoy the music. You can even make use of those dancing shoes if you’re so inclined!

             General admission tickets to the concert are only $5 per person, but hungry fans can get a ticket for $12 which will include a barbecue dinner. Listening to music outdoors and enjoying an evening picnic in May-- what better way is there to conclude a hard work week?

             Tickets for “Block Party Blues” can be purchased in advance at the Salem Museum, at Countryside Classics in Salem, or at the gate the night of the event. The Salem Museum is located at 801 East Main Street in Salem, and is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 to 4, and Saturday from 10 to 3. Call 389-6760 for more information.

 

For immediate release:

May brings a “Spring ‘Splosion” of Art to the Salem Museum

For the third year, the Salem Museum will host a special exhibit of Salem High School student art, featuring the talented students of the school’s celebrated International Baccalaureate Art program.

 “We are thrilled to introduce some budding young artists to the community each year,” said Salem Museum director John Long. “Our student art shows always draws a great reaction from visitors--they are always intrigued by what the artists create.”

 A previous exhibition this spring featured the work of graduating seniors at Salem. The May display invites the underclassmen of the IB 1 and 2 classes to participate alongside some of the seniors. Dozens of works--paintings, sketches, and sculptures--will be featured. “You will be impressed--we guarantee it,” said Long.

 Salem High School art teacher Patty Pope has worked with the Museum for three years to bring her student’s art to the public. It gives them, she credits, not only experience in the nuts and bolts of an exhibition but valuable experience in presenting their vision to the viewer.

 “Spring ‘Splosion” (the exhibit title chosen by the students) will be featured in the Powell Gallery, the main exhibit gallery of the expanded museum. “Student artwork has been a major focus of our exhibition schedule this year,” noted Long, with two displays from Salem students and one from Glenvar High School. “We think it’s one of the best programs we offer to the public.”

 The exhibit continues through May. The Salem Museum is located at 801 East Main Street in Salem, and is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 to 4, and Saturday from 10 to 3. No admission is charged for the Museum galleries.

SALEM MUSEUM TO HOLD HERBAL WORKSHOPS ON APRIL 26th

          The Salem Museum on April 26th will be the place to get some “sage” advice-- just in the nick of “thyme!” The Third Annual Salem Museum Herb Faire will offer fascinating--and aromatic-- workshops on how to grow, use, and appreciate herbs, with sessions for the novice and the expert. And a fabulous plant sale will allow you the chance to practice some of what you learn at home.

            “This has been a great educational event for us the past two years,” said Museum Director John Long. “We love to offer this sort of event alongside our focus on local history. It’s a great combination.”

The Herb Faire is also sponsored by the Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Roanoke Master Gardener’s Association. A schedule for the workshops is below:  

  • 9:30 a.m. Registration and Sign-in
  • 10:00 – 10:30 Compatible Herbs Go to Pot by Roanoke Master Gardeners. Learn how to combine and plant your favorite herbs to meet your kitchen needs. Grow in pots inside or out. You can have your fresh herbs right at your fingertips!!
  • 10:45 - 11:15Olive Oil 101 by Oliveto. Learn about the difference in “store bought” olive oil and the fresh, “authentic” olive oil we offer at Oliveto.  This class will give you a quick lesson in Extra Virgin Olive Oil and what that term actually means. Tastings will be provided for some of our oils and balsamic vinegars.
  • 11:30 - NoonHerbal Bread Secrets w/ Laura Van Ostrand  Join “The Little Red Hen”, owner of Nick of Thyme Bakery and Catering, as she demystifies the making of herbal bread.
  • 12:00 – 12:45LUNCH . A $5.00 Chic-fil-A box lunch available. Place your order before 11:15 a.m.
  • 12:45 – 1:15Take the Confusion Out of Infusions!  We will show you how to make and use herbal infusions to add unique and delicious taste surprises to cakes, cookies, and drinks.  You will have an opportunity to taste the difference.
  • 1:30 – 2:00Scentsational Herbal Crafts! Learn how to use fragrant herbs to decorate and scent your home, provide a soothing bath, or keep the insects away.  Herbal crafts make great and inexpensive gifts for friends and family.  Using lavender, scented geraniums, fresh bay leaves and other herbs, we will demonstrate how to make hearth strings, bath soak bags, spicy trivets and more.
  • 2:15 – 3:00No Time to Water?   Create Your Own Miniature Garden using Succulents.  Visit our plant sale and pick out your favorite succulents.  This  make-and-take workshop will share some unique ways to display and “dress-up” your succulents indoors or out. Roanoke Master Gardeners will help you repot your purchase.  Containers and soil are furnished.

In addition to the workshops, there will also be an Herb/ Plant Sale and “Plant an Herb Pot” station open all day. The admission to the workshops is only $5/per person all day, including all cooking demos and tastings; however folks not attending the workshops may visit the Herb Sale on their own with no admission fee. Proceeds from the plant sale support the maintenance of the landscape at the Museum. 

            To register for classes, email herbfaire2014@gmail.com.

            The Salem Museum, located in the historic Williams-Brown House of Longwood Park, is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 am to 4 pm, and Saturday from 10 to 3. No admission is charged for the Museum galleries.

 

SALEM MUSEUM TO HOST STUDENT ARTISTS FROM GLENVAR FOR SPECIAL EXHIBITION

For the second year, the Salem Museum will soon present to the public a special display of local art; the impressive works of students at Glenvar High School’s art department.

“We are thrilled to introduce some budding young artists to the community,” said Salem Museum director John Long. “Our museum started several years ago this outreach to the local schools, and it’s been one of the best programs we’ve offered here. I know our visitors will be impressed by what they find.”

The exhibit will include more than 70 pieces, including sculpture, ceramics, and framed paintings. Twenty-seven Glenvar students are slated to participate. While it will be the first public exhibit for some of the students, it certainly won’t be the last for many of the talented young artists.

“This is a win-win idea,” said Long. “We get a great exhibit that our visitors really enjoy. Meanwhile the students get hands-on, practical experience in designing an exhibition. We hope a lot of them list this experience on college applications and take away fond memories of their first show.”

The Glenvar exhibit opens on Tuesday, April 15 and continues through April 26. It is the second exhibit of high school art at the Salem Museum this year, coming on the heels of a display of the works of Salem High students earlier.

The Salem Museum is located at 801 East Main Street in Salem, and is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 to 4, and Saturday from 10 to 3. No admission is charged for the Museum galleries.

 

 

mARTch Madness: SALEM MUSEUM TO HOST STUDENT ART EXHIBITION FOR THIRD YEAR

            For the third year, the Salem Museum is pleased to host a special exhibit of Salem High School student art, just in time for National Youth Art Month in March. “mARTch Madness,” as the students have titled their exhibition, brings the works of members of the school’s International Baccalaureate Art program to Main Street Salem, introducing some budding young artists to the community.

“This exhibit is one of the best programs we offer the public each year,” said Salem Museum director John Long. “We always get a great response, and it’s always a great experience for the students. Plus our visitors are endlessly intrigued by what the artists have created.”

Dozens of works--paintings, sketches, and sculptures--by the students of the Class of 2014 will be featured, reflecting the great talents and eclectic tastes of the teenaged artists. “Prepare to be impressed,” said Long. “These are remarkable kids with great vision and unique ways of viewing the world.”

Salem High School art teacher Patty Pope is also enthusiastic about the opportunity for her students. "Our Salem High School artists wouldn't have a platform to bring our art out to the community without the support and connection we have made with the Salem Museum,” she said. 

Three years ago a member of the Museum’s board visited an exhibit of student art from Salem, crammed into the lobby of a Roanoke radio station. Surely, she thought, this should be right on Main Street Salem instead. She approached Pope and Long with the idea, and with that mARTch Madness was born.

“That conversation began a wonderful working relationship between the art department and the museum,” said Pope. “We now conduct testing for the International Baccalaureate Art and Design Program at the museum for our seniors, as they showcase their work in their own senior show. The students have been working hard, and are eager to present their works!"  

The talented teens agree. "I am excited to be showing at the Salem Museum again,” said senior artist Breanna Carr. “The museum provides my classmates and me with such a wonderful opportunity to have a taste of what a true formal art show looks and feels like."

The exhibit “provides a great opportunity to both show our artwork to the community and to get our names out there," added artist Brittany Graham, also a senior.

“mARTch Madness” this year will be featured in the Powell Gallery, the main exhibit gallery of the expanded museum, for the first time. “The last two years the students have been tucked upstairs,” said Long. “This year we wanted them to be the main focus of our exhibitions.”

“mARTch Madness” continues through April 5. A second exhibition of student art from Glenvar High School will follow the Salem show, and in May the sophomore and junior students in Salem’s IB Art program will get their chance to exhibit. .

The Salem Museum is located at 801 East Main Street in Salem, and is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 to 4, and Saturday from 10 to 3. No admission is charged for the Museum galleries.

 

SALEM MUSEUM EXHIBIT EXPLORES THE DRIVE TO IMPROVE THE VALLEY IN THE 1920s

Mere blocks from prosperous businesses, hulks of cars rust away in trash filled lots. Lick Run floods over what is today the busy Route 460 near the Civic Center; a mile or so away the creek becomes an open sewer. Across downtown Roanoke, unsightly and uncontrolled signage creates an eyesore. New-fangled automobiles compete with horse drawn wagons for passage along sub-standard streets.

This was the Roanoke Valley that was in 1928. It was the Roanoke Valley that many thought should not be. Things needed to change, and a dedicated team of reformers were determined to drag the region--kicking and screaming if need be--into the modern world.

A new exhibit at the Salem Museum documents the drive to improve civic conditions in the Roanoke Valley in the late 1920s. Based on a unique set of photographs in the museum’s collection, “Civic Dreams and Unsightly Scenes: Envisioning a New Roanoke Valley” shows the region on the verge of major changes that would overcome early growing pains and help to mature the valley into a modern community.

“We have had this set of photos for years, but few have ever been exhibited before,” noted Salem Museum Director John Long. “Individual photos are fascinating, but taken as a whole they form an intriguing look at what needed to change back then.”

The photos were taken by the newly-formed Roanoke Planning and Zoning Commission from 1928 to 1931. The earlier ones were part of the famed Nolen Plan of 1928, Roanoke City’s first attempt at a comprehensive plan. Those taken in ensuing years were presumably part of the drive to implement John Nolen’s visionary ideas.

Nolen was a widely respected civic planner from Massachusetts who in 1907 had been contracted by a private group to envision what the Roanoke Valley could become. Few of his 1907 ideas were ever put into effect. But 21 years later the Planning Commission again hired Nolen to chart a course of civic improvement for not only Roanoke but the entire region, which Nolen considered an integrated whole. His 1928 plan would guide the development of the valley for decades to come.

“Nolen really was a prophet in many ways,” said Long, who has done extensive research into the Nolen Plan and its aftermath. “A lot of radical ideas he proposed are things we take for granted today, like zoning rules, trash laws, weed control ordinances. None of us would be content to live in the city that Nolen was trying to fix.”

A pair of before-and-after photos illustrates some of the problems Nolen and the Planning Commission wanted to address. The first, taken in 1928, shows an end of Bullitt Avenue in Roanoke. The street is unpaved, there is no curbing, ramshackle sheds and out of control weeds mar the scene. Three years later, the photo shows a modern thoroughfare with better paving and grading and a general attention to appearance. A little bit of effort has made a profound difference. Elsewhere, the reformers highlighted the need for more public parks, better roads, an up to date airport (proposed to be in east Salem), and other hallmarks of a modern community.

Probably most fascinating is a series of photos dubbed “unsightly scenes” by the Commission. A tree grows in the middle of a southeast street. The rubble of collapsed buildings lies neglected in vacant lots. Weeds, rubbish, and polluted streams present hazards not only to aesthetics but to health. “100% disgusting” reads a handwritten note on the back of one of the original snapshots.

“These were conditions which needed correcting, and eventually they were,” noted Long. “It’s interesting to see how determined the reformers were to improve things and, and how much progress they made.”

The Planning Commission photographer, whose name is not known, also captured images of historic buildings around the Valley, though for what reasons were not explained. A colonial era fort (later demolished to construct Interstate 581), an early stagecoach tavern, and even the agrarian community that would be inundated to fill Carvin’s Cove can be seen. Other candid photos show evocative streetscapes, a city-wide marbles tournament, and a plane taking off from Trout Field--then the closest thing the Valley had for an airport.

While not all of the Nolen Plan proposals ever came to be in the form he proposed or which the Planning Commission wanted, many of the forward-thinking ideas did indeed come to pass. Such concepts as sensible zoning laws, local sign ordinances, better roads and bridges for the automobile age, additional public parks and a public pool, a modern airport, better libraries, and even greenway walking paths are now things citizens take for granted. But they were born in those heady days when a planned community was a revolutionary idea.

“For folks who know the Roanoke Valley, it will be a fascinating experience to see these photos. It’s like a trip back to a simpler time, but a time when some things were perfectly horrid,” said Long. “It will make you appreciate all the more the Roanoke Valley we all know now.”

The Salem Museum is located at 801 East Main Street in Salem, and is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 to 4, and Saturday from 10 to 3. No admission is charged for the Museum galleries.

 

 

At the annual membership meeting of the Salem Historical Society, the Board of Directors took the opportunity to thank W. Frank Chapman for his service above and beyond the call of duty in directing the Salem Museum Capital Campaign for the previous six years. Frank's dedication to the cause and devotion to funding our recent expansion project was deemed worthy of admiration and great gratitude, and the Board passed the following resolution in his honor:

The Board of Directors of the Salem Historical Society, Salem, Virginia

A Resolution in Honor of W. Frank Chapman

Whereas, W. Frank Chapman is a lifelong resident of Salem, Virginia, with deep family roots in the community and innumerable friends therein; and

Whereas Frank has been a successful businessman and a respected member of Salem community, is a veteran of the United States Navy, and has served on numerous nonprofit boards including the Boy Scouts, Salem-Roanoke County Chamber of Commerce, the Salem Rescue Squad and the Salem-Roanoke County Food Pantry; and

Whereas, he served a four year appointment to the Virginia Commission of Game and Inland Fisheries, serving as Vice Chairman his last year; and

Whereas, he has been a generous benefactor of the Salem Historical Society and many other worthy charities for many years; and

Whereas, Frank has served admirably, tirelessly, and with great dedication as a Board Member of the Salem Historical Society for many years, serving a term as President of said organization and also serving on a number of active committees and volunteering for numerous events; and

Whereas, he has in particular served with selfless devotion on the Building Committee of the Salem Museum, thereby performing valuable service in planning, overseeing, and administering the recent expansion project of said Museum; and

Whereas, most notably Frank has tirelessly served since 2007 as the Chair of the Salem Museum Capital Campaign Committee, a body tasked with raising the funds necessary for the expansion and completion of the Salem Museum; and

Whereas, the said committee set a goal of raising the necessary $3.3 million to pay for this expansion, a goal which was not only met, but exceeded; and

Whereas, this inestimable achievement was accomplished in the context of a very difficult economic environment, at a time when many other such campaigns were foundering or falling short of less ambitious goals; and

Whereas, the high regard in which Frank is held by those around him and his many friendships within and without the Roanoke Valley helped to rally our community around the goal of completing the Museum’s expansion project; and

Whereas, Frank’s leadership and tireless efforts helped to make possible the early repayment in full of the Museum’s construction debts; and

Whereas, he has been and continues to be a leader of his community in numerous other ways, with his warmth, generosity, engaging personality, and selfless nature endearing him to all who know him and are privileged to call him friend;

Now, therefore, be it resolved, that the Board of Directors of the Salem Historical Society does hereby state and record boundless admiration for and deep appreciation to W. Frank Chapman for his vast contributions to the Salem Historical Society; and

Be it further resolved, that the Salem Historical Society will continue to strive in the noble cause which has so engaged Frank, namely the preservation of the vital history of our community and the education of future generations about our rich past; believing, as does he , that by recognizing and preserving the best efforts of our forebears we will be inspired to achieve higher cultural, historical, humanitarian and spiritual goals into our bright future.

In witness whereof, the Secretary of the Salem Historical Society has caused her signature to be duly affixed hereto on this 18th Day of November, 2013.

Judy Goodwin, Secretary of the Board of Directors, Salem Historical Society

 

SALEM MUSEUM TOUR INVITES VISITORS

TO “COME HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS” DECEMBER 8th

Let your imagination take you back many Decembers to a simpler day. Decades ago in sleepy little Salem, Christmas is a pleasant time. Families gather for dinner in the warmth of quiet bungalows or in stately mansions. Children eye the presents with anticipation; moms lovingly put finishing touches on the big meal. Carolers meander down side streets, while Main Street reflects the garish charm of new electric lights.

A lifetime of Christmases later, the Holidays are brasher and busier. Families scurry across the nation, bringing new-fangled gadgets wrapped in festive paper. Digital displays beckon the buyer into crowded stores where a dozen Santas can barely keep up.

Yet in Salem some things stay the same. Houses that celebrated the Yuletide season decades ago are still here, with new generations of family filling the stockings. Friends greet each other on the snowy street corners; great-grandma’s ornaments grace the trees. Much has changed, but much has stayed the same.

This year the Salem Museum invites you to “Come Home for the Holidays” and to relive those uncomplicated times when chestnuts really did roast on open fires. The 2013 Holiday Homes Tour, back after a year’s hiatus, will open to eager visitors six wonderful buildings, with halls bedecked and stockings hung with care. Two are younger but lovely private homes; four are “re-purposed” old houses with a new lease on life.

“Rebirth might be a good theme for this year’s tour,” noted Helen Johnson, assistant director of the Museum and coordinator for the tour. “Our stops on the tour feature two older family residences which have been lovingly remade. Then there are four former homes which have been adapted for other uses. It’s a great way to see the past.”

A local tradition for many years, the Salem Museum Holiday Homes Tour will be held December 8 from 1 to 5 pm, the culmination of the city’s Ye Olde Salem Christmas celebration. Below are the sites open for the tour:

Monterey 110 High Street

One of Salem’s most fabled mansions, Monterey was built about 1850, one of the legendary “Deyerle houses” of the Roanoke Valley. Through the years it has served as a home, a hotel, a frat house, and most recently part of our local college campus. Members of the College Historical Society will welcome guests to this stately edifice, and visitors will be able to learn, among other things, about Averell’s Raid on Salem, 150 years ago this December. Captain Thomas Chapman, who lived in Monterey in 1863, was the sole Salemite killed in the Union raid on the railroad in town. Look for evidence of later history as well, such as a vintage 1930s elevator installed for an infirm resident. In addition, for the first time the upstairs of Monterey will be open to the public.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Monterey is a beloved local landmark and will make an unforgettable visit. As a bonus, several campus organizations will each decorate a room in Monterey with appropriate themes--delightful displays you won’t see anywhere else!

Roselawn 226 High Street

Once the home of the Roanoke College presidents, this lovely house was built in 1915. It sits on the site of an early, antebellum president’s house, and gained its floral name from the beautiful landscaping projects of Mrs. Charles Smith, wife of the school’s legendary president. Visitors to Roselawn will delight in the rich furnishings, formal portraits of college leaders, the lavish decorations. Look for special exhibitions from the college archives in both campus buildings as well, such as a unique 19th Century Christmas card collection!

The Logan-Mongan Home 615 Mt. Vernon

The comfortable home of Quinn and Lisa Mongan exudes the grace and charm of a hometown Christmas. Built in 1950, the house has been in the family for three generations. Quinn and Lisa have happily resided there since 2002, completing impressive renovations to make the home a showplace for Salem. For instance, they took three cramped downstairs rooms and opened them into an impressive great room by removing walls. Later they added a large family room opening onto a lovely deck, and revitalized the old kitchen into a modern masterpiece.  Also look for spectacular decorations by local legend George Seymour!

The Henrickson Home 729 Virginia Avenue

Mark and Jodi Henrickson’s deceptively large home dates to 1938, and has also been in the same family since construction. The original house, though, was too small, so the couple have lovingly enlarged and reconfigured virtually everything. They wisely kept many of the charming features from homes of the era—arched doorways, oak floors with 14-foot boards, a wall telephone niche, built-in bookcases, and eight-paneled doors with brass hardware.  But it will be the modern touches that will inspire the oohs and aahs. The “hearth room,” added in 2006, leads to a brick patio where the family can enjoy breathtaking views of Salem. Architectural features and antique furnishings have been “re-purposed” or “upcycled” to serve a modern family, but none of the grace and charm has been lost. While ladies enjoy such features as the antique grandfather clock and dazzling decorations, their husbands can explore Mark’s extraordinary “Man Cave” below. No one will leave unimpressed!  

Dartmore 710 Apperson Drive

Nestled along Lee Highway, this elegant structure was once the home of Harvey Black Apperson, later to become Virginia’s attorney general after a successful legislative career. It is now owned and occupied by the American Legion, and the house serves as a meeting space and a tribute to generations of veterans. As a special treat, from 2 to 4 on the day of the tour, local veterans of D-day plan to be on hand to share their memories. Look for lovely table decorations from Cornerstone Collectibles in Salem as well.

The Salem Museum 801 East Main Street

The landmark 1845 Williams-Brown House, home to the Salem Museum, now boasts a $3 million, environmentally-friendly addition which is the pride of Salem. While there, visitors can peruse the informative exhibits, partake of stunning views of the wintry landscape, and enjoy a cup of cheer at our annual Tea Party. If you’re in a shopping mood, the Salem Museum Gift Shop is a great place to get unique holiday treasures! And of course, you’ll want to see the fabulous exhibition of handmade Christmas wreaths and bid on one in the Museum’s silent auction--bids close at the end of the tour.

Tickets for the Holiday Homes Tour will be on sale by November 12 and can be purchased at the Museum or in Salem at Countryside Classics, the Salem Times-Register, and Brooks-Byrd Pharmacy. They can also be purchased at the featured homes during the tour.  To pay by credit card, call 389-6760.

The cost is $12 in advance and $15 the day of the tour. Maps of the tour will be available at any of the stops along the way. The tour is self-guided, and the houses may be approached in any order. Parking is available on area streets, but some walking will be involved.  Carpooling is recommended. No spike-heeled shoes, smoking, or cameras are allowed. In case of bad weather, the tour will be rescheduled for Dec. 15th. Proceeds support the educational programs and preservation projects of the Salem Museum.

The Salem Museum, located in the historic 1845 Williams-Brown House of Longwood Park, is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 am to 4 pm, and Saturday from 10 to 3 pm.

 

Salem Museum Halls to Be Decked by Unique, Hand-crafted Wreaths

 When you see that circle of green, lavishly decorated and prominently hung on the front door, you know Christmas is around the corner. There’s just something about a Christmas wreath that awakens the Christmas Spirit in the most miserly Scrooge. Soon visitors to the Salem Museum will have the chance not only to enjoy some beautiful wreaths, but also to take one home!

For the third year, the Salem Museum will show off the talents of local Christmas elves with a festive Wreath Exhibition, marking the joyous season and brightening souls. Best of all, all of the wreaths will be available for purchase through a silent auction that will support the Museum.

The special exhibition will feature some thirty handcrafted wreaths, each lovingly created by the local community and donated for the cause.

Museum board member Vicki Piper coordinates the wreath project, and in fact originated the idea two years ago. Each year, Piper’s committee distributes plain, undecorated wreaths to interested businesses, clubs, individuals and schools to decorate according to their own vision of the season. The result is an eclectic display of wreaths from the breathtaking to the whimsical. Even visitors who choose not to bid on a wreath enjoy the Yuletide spectacle. And of course those who take part in the silent auction get the chance to take home a unique piece to enjoy year after year.

In addition, the Museum will offer a series of “Brown Bag Lunch Programs” through the run of the exhibit. Participants are invited to pack a lunch and join in a seasonal discussion or activity. The schedule for the Brown Bag Lunches is as follows:

  • Nov. 7: Dr. Grace Toney Edwards on Appalachian Christmas customs.
  • Nov. 14: Book Review and discussion with Dr. Peggy Shifflett
  • Nov.19 “Make a Chalkware Santa” with Karen Beasley (pre-registration and a fee is required)
  • Nov. 20: International Christmas Music with Rev. Judy Spruhan

The Salem Museum Wreath Exhibition opens Nov. 9th and runs through the Dec. 8th. Throughout that time visitors are invited to make bids on as many wreaths as they like in the silent auction. Bidding is anonymous, so a bidding number can be picked up from the reception desk at the Museum. Bids close, and the winners may take their wreaths home, after 6 pm on Dec. 8th, the date of the Salem Museum Holiday Homes Tour.

Visitors to see the wreath exhibition, which is free and open to the public, are also invited to see the fascinating exhibits at the Salem Museum, including “The Fiery Ordeal Through Which They Passed: Salem and the Civil War” and the ever popular “Lakeside! Sixty Summers of Ups and Downs.”  The Salem Museum Gift Shop will also be open through the run of the Wreath Exhibition, offering unique gift ideas for the shopper who wants to fill stockings and support a great cause at the same time.

The Salem Museum is located in the antebellum Williams-Brown House of Longwood Park, at 801 East Main Street in Salem. No admission is charged for the Museum galleries.

 

Salem “Ghosts” To Tell Their Stories October 19 and 22        

If someone says the word “cemetery” what is your first response? A shiver of apprehension? Sorrow for loved ones gone on before? Visions of a restful, quiet place to meditate?

At the Salem Museum, the first thought is “history buried at our feet!”

For the 16th year, the Salem Museum will sponsor the ever-popular Ghost Walk, a “living” history tour through the historic East Hill Cemeteries. Instead of ghouls and goblins hiding behind tombstones, participants will meet actual people from Salem’s past, talking about their lives and the history of the town.

“We started the Ghost Walk not knowing if there would be any response,” noted Salem Museum Director John Long, who helped begin the October tradition in 1998. “But we quickly found out people loved this event. We’ve found no better or more entertaining way to teach about the history of our community.”

“Imagine if the people buried in a cemetery could rise up and talk to us. How much could we learn about our past?” asked Helen Johnson, Assistant Museum Director. “Of course we can’t do that literally, but we do recruit some wonderful volunteer actors to make it happen.”

Through the years, more than 75 scripts have been presented in the Salem Ghost Walk, uncovering stories that might have languished in the historical shadows otherwise. This year past favorites such as James Bryant, Salem’s first professional firefighter, and Confederate veteran Thomas Chapman will be resurrected. Chapman was the sole Salemite killed in Averell’s Raid on Salem, which was 150 years ago this winter.

In addition, several new characters will make their appearance. Rev. Franklin Pierce Robertson and his wife Josephine will talk about the Salem of their day, while early suffragette and civic reformer Annie Whitner will tell of her efforts to improve society through women’s activism.

The Robertsons (who will be portrayed by descendants) are only one of three husband/wife combinations slated to appear, an innovation for the Ghost Walk, said Long. Larkin Burwell, a slave who ran away to join the Union Army in 1864, will appear on Saturday with his wife Anna. Farther up the hill, famed General Andrew Lewis will be found with, for the first time in more than two centuries, his wife Elizabeth.

“Andrew Lewis is the one ghost we’ve presented every year,” said Long, “and certainly the most prominent. But almost no one knows anything about his wife. We hope to change that this year.”

Elizabeth Givens Lewis is little known in the historical record, but it is presumed that she (like many frontier wives) ran the family estate while her influential husband traveled widely on military campaigns and affairs of state.

The sesquicentennial of the Civil War provides an occasion to present some interesting stories. A group of Confederate veterans, for instance, will reminisce about the Battle of Gettysburg, 150 years ago. Throw in the town’s gravedigger on Tuesday, a group of gossipy teenagers on Saturday, and the fascinating exhibits at the Salem Museum-- and it all adds up to a great October evening.

The Ghost Walk will be staged on October 19 and 22, with tours leaving the Museum every fifteen minutes from 6:30 to 8:30. To control the size of the groups, it is strongly encouraged that guests call and schedule a tour time. Reservations can be made by calling 389-6760 or emailing info@salemmuseum.org. A minimum $6 per person donation is requested. In case of rain, the event will be held inside the Museum.

Before and after the tour, visitors are invited to experience the featured exhibit “The End of the Road: Coffins, Gravestones, and Other Things People are Dying to Get.” It explores some of the ways funeral traditions have changed over time, and some of the interesting cemeteries and grave markers found in the valley. Other museum galleries will open during the Ghost Walk as well, exploring Salem’s development through two centuries, Salem’s Native American pre-history, and Lakeside Amusement Park.

The Ghost Walk involves a walk of some distance, part of it uphill. It may not be suitable for those who have trouble walking, and all should wear comfortable shoes. While not a scary event, it may not be suitable for very young children.

The Salem Museum, located in the historic Williams-Brown House of Longwood Park, is open to the public Tuesday through Friday from 10 am to 4 pm, and Saturday from 10 to 3. Admission to the museum is free.

Salem Museum Program to look back at local desegregation 50 years later

It was the autumn of 1963 that schools in the Town of Salem were integrated for the first time. At 7:00 pm on October 21st, the Salem Museum will commemorate that process with a special program, held in the auditorium of Andrew Lewis Middle School

In 1962 a federal judge had ordered Roanoke County schools (of which Salem was then a part) to develop a plan for desegregating. That very fall, a few African American students enrolled in formerly white county schools, but the process did not reach Salem for another year. Then in 1963, the first black students began to move into Andrew Lewis High and other schools in Salem. Little if any protest was expressed publicly; not even the local press paid much attention. The process proved so painless that the county integration plan was finished two years early.

The program on the 21st will assemble a panel of alumni who lived through those momentous, if quiet, days. They will share their recollections in a facilitated discussion on what it all meant. Due to expected high turnout, the program will be held in the Andrew Lewis Middle School Auditorium instead of at the Museum.

The Salem Museum is located at 801 East Main Street in Salem, and is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 to 4, and Saturday from 10 to 4. Call 389-6760 for more information.

SALEM MUSEUM EXHIBIT EXPLORES THE

“END OF THE ROAD”

            A few people might be a little squeamish about the Salem Museum’s new exhibit, warns Museum Director John Long. But only until they realize what an interesting, and seldom considered, topic is being explored: the history of funeral customs through the years.

            “Let’s be honest: this is a topic all of face and few of us discuss,” noted Long. “We’ve all been to more funerals than we ever wanted to attend, but have we thought about why we do things the way we do? Or how our customs have changed over the years?”

            From such thinking comes the Museum’s new exhibit “The End of the Road: Coffins, Gravestones, and Other Things People are Dying to Get.” Based on a smaller, short-run exhibit presented in 1998, the display highlights how caring for the dearly departed has changed over time, and how local folks have dealt with the inevitable end of life. It opens September 14 and runs through October.

            “The End of the Road” is based heavily on the collections of two local institutions: John M. Oakey and Sons Funeral Home and Sherwood Memorial Park. From Oakey’s came a unique collection of 19th Century mortuary artifacts, including coffins, mortician’s tools, and a glass embalming table. Sherwood, by far the largest cemetery in Salem, offered memorabilia dealing with, among other things, “Thy Kingdom Come,” an outdoor religious drama staged in the 1950s. At the time, Salem boasted the only such program ever offered in an American cemetery.

            “Oakey’s and Sherwood have been great supporters of the Museum for many years, and were very generous in loaning us items and providing us information,” said Long.

            Among the topics explored in the exhibit are the rise of funeral homes in the 19th Century (prior to that, the family members typically handled all the details of a funeral themselves); the history of prominent local cemeteries and interesting grave markers therein, and how funeral customs moved after the Civil War from “gloom to beauty,” celebrating the life that has ended rather than fixating on death. “Death is the one constant in all societies,” noted Long, “but how we’ve dealt with it has changed appreciably.”

            Interesting stories emerge: the African American gravedigger who, in appreciation for his years of service, was buried in John M. Oakey’s own family plot; the Salem soldier who was buried three times on two sides of the continent, and the New Orleans tourist who remarked on the beauty of a local cemetery, only to suddenly die that night and be buried there. Throw in a missing pauper cemetery in town, a chance for kids to try their hand at gravestone rubbings, and a look back at the days when a hearse doubled as an ambulance, and you find a lot of fascinating history in the exhibit.

            “Morbid? No. We think people will appreciate this exhibit for what it is: an exploration of how our forebears handled death,” said Long. “Every time you drive along Main Street, you pass cemeteries. We hope you’ll leave with a greater understanding of why they are there and what they meant to our ancestors--and us.”

          The Salem Museum is located at 801 East Main Street in Salem, and is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 to 4, and Saturday from 10 to 3. No admission is charged for the Museum galleries.

Salem Museum Changes Saturday Hours

In response to changing expectations and visitation patterns, the Salem Museum will change its Saturday hours to 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, replacing the older hours of noon to five. The change will go into effect Sept. 7th.

“We’ve noticed fewer people come in the late afternoon hours,” noted Salem Museum Director John Long. “But on occasions where we’ve been open earlier, there seems to be a lot of interest.”

The gallery hours during the week (Tuesday through Friday 10 to 4) will remain unchanged. The Museum is closed Sunday and Monday.

The Salem Museum is located at 801 East Main Street in Salem. Admission to the museum galleries is free. Call 389-6760 for more information.

 

WWII Relic in Collection of the Salem Museum Documents Nominated as one of “Virginia’s Top 10 Most Endangered Artifacts”

A rare ship’s flag from World War II in the collection of the Salem Museum has received statewide recognition as one of Virginia’s “Most Endangered Artifacts.” Supporters and interested history buffs can vote now to recognize the flag of the troop transport George W. Goethals for the special “Top 10” designation.

The ship’s flag from the WWII troop transport USAT General George W. Goethals, along with several other items associated with the vessel, was donated to the Salem Museum many years ago by the widow of an officer who served aboard the ship. However, until recently it was not fully identified; merely listed as “US Navy ship’s flag” with no other information. Extensive research over the past few months into the artifact’s history has revealed the significance of the flag. The flag was not, in fact, a Navy flag: it is a rare surviving example of an ensign from a ship of the United States Army.

“We discovered, among other interesting data, that the George W. Goethals was not a naval vessel,” noted Salem Museum director John Long, who also teaches WWII history at nearby Roanoke College. “It was a ship of the United States Army. It's a little known fact that the Army operated more ships in WWII than the Navy did!”

More poignantly, Long noted, this flag is significant because it would have been aboard ship during Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy in June, 1944, more commonly known as the D-Day invasion. “The Goethals served in that campaign by bringing elements of the 2nd Infantry Division to Omaha Beach on June 7, the second day of the fight,” said Long. On that day, the ship’s personnel witnessed, among other things, the sinking of the Susan B. Anthony, another troop transport in the flotilla.

The flag features the logo of the US Army Transportation Corps, a multifaceted emblem representing all elements of transportation offered by the unit. A ship’s wheel is easily seen, representing maritime transport, followed by a shield representing the highway markers of the day--overland transportation being obviously essential to the war effort. Finally, a train wheel with wings stands for rail and air transport. After WWII, the maritime and air arms of the Army were folded into the navy and the new Air Force, so this flag was retired by 1946. The Goethals at that point became a naval vessel, continuing to serve in the Atlantic through the Korean War period. She was inactivated in 1959 and scrapped in 1971.

Ship flags are often found in poor shape, and this one is no different, noted Long. The ravages of age, salt spray, and wind took their toll during the war. The Goethals flag is also soiled and torn, and in need of professional textile conservation. The first step in conservation is always raising awareness of the need, Long said.

Last year, the Salem Museum nominated a fragile set of birth records reflecting the career of local African-American midwife Georgianna Saunders. “The program raised awareness of this lady we thought had been forgotten, but in fact we had multiple visits, letters and emails from folks who were delivered by Mrs. Saunders,” noted Long. The Museum finished third in the statewide polling. This summer, in part due to the success of the program last year, a volunteer is transcribing the records into a searchable database.  “The Saunders Midwife Records are one of the program’s success stories,” said Long. “Demographic and genealogical information that was once almost lost--in fact to be burned as kindling in a wood stove--will now be preserved. That’s what the Endangered Artifact polling is supposed to do.”

The “Endangered Artifact” campaign from the Virginia Association of Museums is designed to create awareness of the importance of preserving artifacts in care at museums, libraries and archives throughout the Commonwealth and in the District of Columbia. Collecting institutions from across Virginia and DC have nominated items that they believe tell a significant story and deserve to be recognized on this prestigious “Top 10 List.” The campaign showcases the importance of Virginia’s diverse history, heritage and culture and the role that artifacts play in telling those stories.

Supporters can see the Salem Museum nomination and all the other nominated items and vote for their favorites by visiting www.vatop10artifacts.org from August 1st – August 29th. A Youtube video describing the Goethals ship flag can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yINE4VY_mGA (or search George W. Goethals flag).

Nominations will be reviewed by an independent panel of collections and conservation experts, and Top 10 designees, as well as “People’s Choice” designees, will be announced in September. The public voting will be considered by the panel as they make their final selections.

Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts is a program of the Virginia Collections Initiative, which is a project of the Virginia Association of Museums, made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services. The IMLS is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute’s mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. For more information, visit www.vamuseums.org or call 804-788-5822.

The Salem Museum is located at 801 East Main Street in Salem, and is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 to 4, and Saturday from noon to five. No admission is charged for the Museum galleries.

 

SALEM MUSEUM’S “YOU-SEUM” LETS THE PUBLIC DESIGN THE EXHIBIT

The July 15th program of the Salem Historical Society will give participants the chance to design a “crowd-sourced” exhibition for one night only--a sort of “show and tell” on a museum scale.

The Salem Museum’s second “You-Seum” event invites folks to bring in an item for display illustrating a central theme, which for this evening will be “They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.” Guests are encouraged to bring something that fits this theme, and to see what other people thought was worth including. The idea is to get a group discussion going of how much better--or maybe worse--things were in the past.

“We had a great time at our first You-Seum in April,” said museum director John Long. “It’s a great way to engage the public and show off some interesting items along the way.”

Based on the ‘Pop-Up Museum” concept that originated on the West Coast, the Salem You-Seum allows the public a say in what goes on display for the one-night event. Every visitor can bring in an object, a photo, a document, or whatever it is they think is not made like that anymore. In an informal setting, they’ll have the opportunity to discuss with others why they chose that item, and what it says about our society, past and present.

“We want to see what the public comes up with,” said Long, “so we’ve set very few ground rules.” All exhibited items should be safe and appropriate for younger visitors, and are displayed at the owner’s risk. Any object-- say a piece of furniture--that is too large or valuable to bring easily to the museum may be represented by a photo instead. Each exhibitor will have the opportunity to explain why they chose that particular item to fit the theme. Facilitated discussions will aid the visitors in exploring the exhibition.

“No one needs to bring anything,” noted Long. “You can just come to look and learn. We hope to inspire conversations about how much things have changed, for good or ill.”

Admission to the You-Seum is free, and light refreshments will be served.

The Salem Museum, located in the historic Williams-Brown House of Longwood Park, is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 am to 4 pm, and Saturday from noon to 5 pm. No admission is charged for the Museum galleries.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 

SALEM MUSEUM’S “YOU-SEUM” LETS THE PUBLIC DESIGN THE EXHIBIT

Normally, when you visit a museum display, you see the end result of a long process. Curators, fabricators, researchers, caption writers--they’ve all spent long hours at work, and the visitor is only the passive spectator, enjoying the show.

So what would you have if the museum turned all of that process over to an impromptu public display? Answer: the Salem Museum’s novel “You-Seum,” a spontaneous one-night exhibit designed by--you!

“A lot of museums are looking for innovative ways to involve the public,” said Museum Director John Long. “Especially the younger generation looks for more hands-on, interactive programs that engage the mind. We think the You-Seum will do just that.”

On April 26th, from 7 to 9, visitors will have the chance to bring in an artifact, chosen to illustrate a central theme, for display and discussion. The theme for the first-ever Salem You-Seum is “Great-Grandma could never have imagined…”

Never have imagined what? That’s up to you to decide!

Based on the ‘Pop-Up Museum” concept that originated on the West Coast, the Salem You-Seum allows the public a say in what goes on display for the one-night event. Every visitor can bring in an object, a photo, a document, or whatever it is they think Great-Grandma could have never imagined. In an informal setting, they’ll have the opportunity to discuss with others why they chose that item, and what it illustrates about how much has changed since our ancestors’ time.

“It’s sort of like show-and-tell,” noted Long. “Participants should be as creative and thought-provoking as they can be, and be ready to have their own thoughts provoked.”

Hoping to rely on the vision of the participants, the Museum has set few ground rules. All exhibited items should be safe and appropriate for younger visitors, and are displayed at the owner’s risk. Each exhibitor will have the opportunity to explain why they chose that particular item to fit the theme. Facilitated discussions will aid the visitors in exploring the exhibition.

“But no one needs to bring anything,” noted Long. “You can just come to look and learn. We hope to inspire conversations about how much things have changed in a short period of time, and how unexpected some of that change has been, for good or ill.”

Admission to the You-Seum is free, but participants are asked to bring a non-perishable food item to donate to a local food pantry. Light refreshments will be served.

If the idea catches on, the Salem Museum has other ideas for future “crowd-sourced” activities. “The next generation of museum visitors doesn’t expect to be passive spectators of static exhibits,” explained Long. “They want to be part of the experience. Really, a museum doing this sort of thing is itself something great-grandma never envisioned!”

            The Salem Museum, located in the historic Williams-Brown House of Longwood Park, is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 am to 4 pm, and Saturday from noon to 5 pm. No admission is charged for the Museum galleries.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

SALEM MUSEUM EXHIBIT LETS KIDS EXPLORE HOW GRANDMA DID THINGS

 

            Little Carrie in 1896 had to feed the chickens and learn to sew by lamplight. Her son Jim in the 1920s listened to baseball games on the radio. Reggie, growing up in the nearby African American neighborhood in the 1940s, had to haul water from the town pump. But little Jack in 2013 surfs the internet and already knows how to text. He’s never seen a kerosene lamp or touched an old-style radio, and can’t imagine a house without running water.

But if he visits the Salem Museum this spring or summer, he just might learn a thing or two about how we did things before cell phones and microwaves.

“The idea for this exhibit came from a rotary-dial phone that was donated to the Salem Museum,” said Museum Director John Long. “We turned the dial like we did when we were kids, and wondered how many of today’s children have heard that sound.”

From that encounter with old technology came “Learn and Play Grandma’s Way,” a new featured exhibit at the Salem Museum.  From manual typewriters to washboards to old-timey, non-digital games like marbles, the exhibit allows kids to explore the way things were once done when words like “tivo” and “tweeting” did not exist.

Three Roanoke College student interns, Amanda Hursch, Michelle Graham, and Katrina King, planned the exhibit and researched the old ways that kids have never seen. Themselves growing up in the internet age, they found they had a good deal to learn about their grandparents’ time.

Carrie, Jim, Reggie, and Jack form a “day in the life of” section where each describes and ordinary day. Old photos of other children in bygone days line the walls, and in the center of the room are stations where kids (or adults!) can explore such topics as Playtime, School Days, and Keeping in Touch.

King, a junior from Draper, was in charge of a section titled “Keeping Clean” about how people did laundry and handled personal cleanliness in the olden days (hint: they didn’t do either as often as we do!). “I think the most interesting thing for me was seeing the evolution of the idea of cleanliness,” said King. “It started as a disease-prevention method and became an expected daily activity only more recently.”

The exhibit also complements an experimental program of the museum on April 26th: the first ever “Salem You-Seum.” Participants will craft a unique, one-night exhibition around a central theme of “Great-Grandma Could Have Never Imagined…” “Anyone who comes can bring an item to illustrate the theme,” said Long, “but it’s up to them what it is that Great Grandma would find so suprising. It’s sort of like show-and-tell for adults.” The You-Seum runs 7 to 9 on the 26th.

 “As a history museum, we want to remind people of the past, but we also want them to consider how much their current lives are different,” noted Long. “Both the exhibition and the You-Seum program will drive that point home.”

The Salem Museum is located at 801 East Main Street in Salem, and is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 to 4, and Saturday from noon to five. No admission is charged for the Museum galleries.

 

Salem Museum Documents Named one of “Virginia’s Top 10 Most Endangered Artifacts”


            Nearly 11,000 voters and an independent panel of experts have recognized a rare set of documents in the archive of the Salem Museum as one of the state’s most endangered artifacts in a museum collection. The Midwife Records of Georgianna Saunders received the distinction from the Virginia Association of Museums and the Virginia Collection Initiative in the state’s second “Most Endangered Artifacts” poll.

            The Saunders documents join artifacts from across the state in the Top Ten List, which was designed to recognize and publicize the threat to museum collections in the Commonwealth and the District of Columbia. Other regional museums which were so recognized included the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke, the Crab Orchard Museum in Tazewell, and the Alleghany Historical Society in Covington.

            Online voting, open through the month of August, was one consideration in determining the Top Ten designation. The Salem Museum finished third statewide, after Alleghany and the Wilton House museum in Richmond, with 11,000 votes. More than 120,000 were cast during the program.

            Although the Top Ten designation is merely honorary and carries no financial award, the Salem Museum is very pleased to receive it. “This has been a great program for us, and we are very happy to have raised awareness of these documents,” said John Long, Salem Museum director. “We were pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming support we garnered.”

          Georgianna Saunders served Salem and the surrounding region as a midwife from about 1916 to about 1940, delivering hundreds of babies. A prominent member of the African American community in Salem, her clientele included all races, but concentrated on the lower socioeconomic levels who could not afford a physician or hospital. Her records, dutifully kept in pocket-sized registers, form a unique demographic look into Salem's population during her career.

          “When we nominated the Saunders records, we thought few people had ever heard of Georgianna,” noted Long. But soon after the voting started, local residents began to contact the museum to ask questions or share stories. “We talked to seven or eight of ‘Aunt Georgie’s Babies’ over the past few weeks, and heard of others. We really touched a nerve in the community.”

          Among the details uncovered by the museum was the fact that Saunders delivered more babies than even the registers reveal. “Apparently she was trusted by physicians in town,” said Long. “They would call her in, maybe when labor was expected to be lengthy, and she’d assist in the birth.” In those cases, the doctor filled out the paperwork, not the midwife. “So we’ll never know how many babies she actually brought into the world, but it had to be a considerable number” he noted.

          Long intends to continue to collect oral history of Saunders, and requests anyone with memories of her to share them with the Museum. He would especially enjoy hearing from others whom she delivered, and would be most interested in obtaining a photograph of the midwife. “To our knowledge no photos of her exist, but we’d love to find out otherwise.”

          The Museum’s long-term plan for the records, which were rescued from a woodstove’s kindling pile by a concerned supporter several years ago, is to conserve the documents and then have the information they contain transcribed into a public database. “The records are too fragile to handle as they are, but we’d love for the public to have access to the info,” said Helen Johnson, Assistant Museum Director.

          Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts is a program of the Virginia Collections Initiative, which is a project of the Virginia Association of Museums, made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services. The IMLS is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute’s mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. For more information, visit www.vamuseums.org or call 804-788-5822.

          The Salem Museum is located at 801 East Main Street in Salem, and is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 to 4, and Saturday from noon to five. No admission is charged for the Museum galleries.

Salem Museum Receives Second Taubman Grant

For the second year, the Salem Museum is a recipient of a Taubman Grant, in the final round of the special two-year program. The Museum was awarded $100,000, double the grant from last year.

“We are ecstatic with this grant,” said Salem Museum director John Long. “The Taubman money definitely makes our museum more sustainable by helping us eliminate our construction debt.”

The Taubman Sustainability Grants were initiated last year by Ambassador and Mrs. Nicholas Taubman of Roanoke. The goal was to increase the viability of arts and cultural organizations in the Roanoke region, which face increasing challenges in the current economy.

“Grants to decrease debt are extremely rare,” noted Long. “What the Taubmans have done for arts organizations in the Valley is immeasurable.” The museum’s debt is left from the 2010 project of the museum which tripled the size of the facility with a state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly expansion.

“Whoopie!!!” shouted museum board president Willie Robertson when notified of the grant. “This is a big step in meeting our goal of eliminating our debt by the end of 2012.”

A portion of the Taubman grant for 2012 is a matching grant, said Long. The Museum will begin working immediately to raise the matching funds.

The Salem Museum, located in Longwood Park in the 1845 Williams-Brown House, is the local history museum and cultural center for Salem and the surrounding area. Admission to the museum and to most of its programs is free.

 

 

Surprising Array of Artifacts on Display at the Salem Museum

             A new exhibition at the Salem Museum might surprise a visitor or two. Who would expect to find an Indonesian garuda or a thousand-year-old Peruvian textile on display in a small local history museum?

             “The Brand Collection: Aboriginal Art from Across the Globe” is on display now in the Wiley Lobby of the Salem Museum. The exhibition showcases part of the collection of local businessman and community activist Cabell Brand and his wife Shirley, and features objets d’art from Africa, South America, China, Indonesia, and other exotic locales.

             “This collection is the sort you’d expect to find in much bigger museums in much bigger cities;” said Museum Director John Long. “You’d have to travel a long way to see items like these, but here they are on Main Street Salem.”

            The collection is a bit of a departure from the usual curatorial philosophy of the Salem Museum, noted Long. “Usually we try to acquire items of local origins. But these wonderful artifacts reflect the travels and collection of one of Salem’s most prominent families. We’re proud to have them on display.”

            Items in the Brand Collection include a hand carved Indonesian garuda, a winged creature ridden by the Hindu god Vishnu, an exquisite miniature painting of a 1687 battle in India rendered on ivory, a portrait of Brand by renowned Ecuadoran artist Oswaldo Guayasamin, and a Chancay doll from Peru, reflecting an ancient burial tradition of the indigenous peoples there. An African mask and an assemblage of ethnic jewelry from around the world are also included.

            Cabell and Shirley Brand are beloved members of the Salem community for many years. Mr. Band is a veteran of World War II who in 1949 took the helm of his family business, the Ortho-Vent Shoe Company (later Stuart McGuire), which he ran until it sold to Home Shopping Network in 1986. Always concerned with the needy in our community, he founded Total Action Against Poverty in the Roanoke Valley in 1965, and helped start other innovative programs such as Head Start, the Child Health Investment Project, Virginia CARES, and the Virginia Water Project. 

            The Brand Collection will be on display through the summer. It coincides with “Vanished Salem: Late, Lamented Local Landmarks” in the main gallery of the museum. The Salem Museum is located at 801 East Main Street in Salem, and is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 to 4, and Saturday from noon to three. No admission is charged for the Museum galleries.

 

 

 

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