Annual Changes to Exhibits Mean More to See and Do!
The Museum closes for the month of January each year so that staff and volunteers can design, fabricate and install new displays and changes to long-term exhibitions. If you have an idea for a show, please contact Lee Langston-Harrison, Executive Director (540.829.5954).
A portion of the Triassic Gallery, which highlights the millions of years before the advent of mankind in this region
215 millions years ago dinosaurs roamed the region we now call the Virginia Piedmont, and more specifically, Culpeper County, Virginia. In 1989, massive evidence of the existence of these great beasts was unearthed at Culpeper Stone Company, a quarry near the town of Culpeper; and in time, this proved to be one of the largest concentrations of dinosaur tracks ever discovered. Until the early 21st century, this concentration was indeed the largest – however, recent discoveries in China prove to be larger.
In any case, 5,000 tracks, most from the “Anchisauripus Parallellus,” a four-legged carnivore (and an ancestor of the infamous raptor), have been unearthed in Culpeper! The Museum is fortunate to have one set of these wonderful footprints, thanks to the generosity of then-owner of the quarry, Gordon Willis. Mr. Willis often regaled friends and colleagues with stories of the finds, and the excavations that resulted.
The tracks are a hands-on component of the Triassic Gallery!
First Nations: The Manahoac Populate the Foothills of the Blue Ridge
A portion of the Native American (First Nations) Gallery which highlights the Manahoac Confederation
In 2016 a new collection of Manahoac artifacts is on display in this gallery! Our thanks to Sarah Barron for donating her father’s collection of stone tools and weapons made by the Manahoac tribes, and found in the plow-zone on Auburn Farm mid-20th century.
Archaeologists, farmers, and metal detectors have found evidence of Native American populations in the Culpeper region, and there are still descendants of the Manahoac people here in Virginia. This confederation of tribes (and historic enemies of the Powhatan, Chief, and father of Pocahontas), stayed in the Piedmont, where they hunted, fished, and created tight-knit communities in the Culpeper area prior to the advent of the white settler. Before the advent of the white man, the Manahoacs had left the area-following the herds of bison west, over the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The Museum has wonderful examples of their stone tools, weapons, and projectile points, and even a lovely chain ornamentation made from the bone of a deer, all on view.
KidzKorner (hands-on activity, for children): kids can learn how to process corn into meal by using an original mortar and pestle (grinding stone) that was first used by the Manahoac – long before Daniel Boone lived here!
The Age of Independence
A portion of the Colonial Gallery which highlights the early colonies, slavery, and the fight for freedom from the British Crown
With the advent of English and German settlements along the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains came men and women in search of rich soil and real freedom, and that meant separating from their Sovereign over 3,000 miles away in London or Berlin. The Museum, through graphics and historic artifacts, explores this eventual fight for freedom. Emphasis is placed on the establishment of the Culpeper Minutemen, and their adventures as they guarded the Elizabeth River in the Tidewater in 1776. Some of the Museum’s impressive collection of Colonial documents is often on view.
In 2016 we highlight and celebrate the 300th anniversary of the ride of the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe with Governor Alexander Spotswood!
KidzKorner: children of all ages can dress for a day of visiting – by wearing colonial attire (reproduction) created especially for traveling. From undergarments to capes and hats, let your kids experience the styles and materials that early Americans wore.
The 19th century – Agrarian Life in the Foothills
Culpeper Court House, the town’s second name (come visit to find out what its first name was!), thrived as more and more Americans moved west – in fact, this area became the “gateway” to the west via the Blue Ridge Mountains. Because the land was fertile, families often remained in the area until they could afford to travel further west. By the late 18th century, an agrarian society sprang up, and Culpeper Court House became the hub for commerce and trade. Railroads and waterways played strategic roles in what was to come – the great storm called the “Civil War.”
The Great Storm: The American Civil War Comes to Culpeper – 1861-1865
An entire gallery is dedicated to the history of America’s most bitter and controversial war – The American Civil War. Also coined as the War Between the States or the War of Northern Aggression, the Civil War pitted brother against brother, father against son, and family against family as the southern states succeeded from the Union. The four years of bloody conflict are illuminated in graphics, artifacts, images, and a large-scale model of the county.
Meet the men, women and children, both black and white, who lived, fought and survived the “great storm.”
New Displays in the Civil War Gallery in 2016!
Reconstruction and an Era of Change
As Culpeper emerged from the ashes of War, it faced numerous challenges. Learn more by examining the new exhibit on Reconstruction (1865-1877).
The African-American Experience
The Museum intertwines the collective memories and artifacts of many Culpeperites, including the heritage of the African-American families who came to this area as enslaved men and women, or in a few cases, as freedmen. Discover the struggles of these people and their contributions to the community.
Riding the Rails:The Train Comes to Culpeper
Discover the long history of the railroad as it “makes tracks” through Culpeper! Artifacts from the railways will illuminate our love of the iron horse!
Along the Wall:
The 20th century in Graphics
Culpeper slowly but surely regained its position as a vibrant town within two decades of the War’s end in 1865. Small industry, agri-business, commerce, and a solid group of strong-willed residents brought Culpeper back to its heyday, and the 20th century dawned with a promise of prosperity. Walls covered in photos, illustrations, maps, letters and other graphics depict the often wild times in Culpeper from 1900-2000.
A portion of the wall graphics illuminating the 20th century in Culpeper
Changing Shows: new displays are on their way! See below for 2015’s series…one last look!
The Museum features changing exhibits and displays depicting many aspects of the 20th century, from education, sports, entertainment, WWI and WWII action, and some historic “firsts.” For example, did you know that Culpeper is in the Guinness Book of Records? Visit us to see why!
Go Speed Racers, Go! The Soap Box Derby in Culpeper
The End of WWII!
One of the changing exhibits this year honors the end of World War II, with loans and museum objects that tell the story of the final days of conflict in Europe, Japan and on the Pacific islands. There are heretofore unseen museum artifacts, and two amazing collections on loan – come “discover” mementos collected by soldiers before they came home in c1945.
Portion of the current display honoring the end of WWII