The Creation of the Museum
In 1975, in connection with the celebration of American independence, a group of individuals proposed the creation of an outdoor museum that would interpret the contributions to American culture made by the principal ethnic groups that settled the western frontier during the 1700s. The group formed an international committee to lead the effort to create a museum that would become a center of significant educational, cultural, and economic impact. In 1976, the committee visited potential sites in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina.
Two years later, the Virginia General Assembly took action to bring the museum to the Commonwealth by authorizing the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation to prepare preliminary plans. The General Assembly also offered the international committee a tract of land adjacent to Staunton at the junction of interstate highways I-64 and I-81, as a potential museum site. Further support for the project was secured from local governments, regional, national and international cultural organizations.
The Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation commissioned a feasibility study of the tract in May 1981 by experts at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. They concluded that the site was eminently suited for such a project, and that such a museum would be a major boost to local tourism. The Board of Trustees of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation recommended the museum project to Governor Charles Robb in December 1981.
The projected costs of such an ambitious venture were substantial. Estimates to purchase, move, and rebuild actual historic farms from England, Northern Ireland, Germany, and America on the proposed site ranged in the millions of dollars. To obtain the necessary capital funds, the American Frontier Culture Foundation was incorporated in February 1982 to accept all private donations to the museum. Gifts from private sector supporters funded the location and purchase of representative historic buildings. Efforts were also made to gain international support. During a reception in the British House of Lords in April 1985, Governor Charles Robb of Virginia announced his approval of the allocation of state funds to finance the Museum's operations.
On July 1, 1986, the Commonwealth of Virginia created the Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia as a state agency with a Board of Trustees appointed by the General Assembly and the Governor to govern the Museum. This action resulted in a partnership between the private sector American Frontier Culture Foundation with its Board of Directors, and the public agency with its Board of Trustees. The Commonwealth funds the Museum's infrastructure and construction of its modern buildings, and provides routine operating costs. The private foundation raises funds to acquire, move, and reassemble the historic buildings and to acquire the artifacts and reproductions to furnish and interpret them. The foundation also raises funds to support lectures, workshops and special programs.
The first structures acquired for the Museum came from County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. Staff at the Ulster-American Folk Park in Northern Ireland documented, dismantled and shipped three traditional stone structures to Virginia in late 1984 and early 1985. The Governor of Virginia laid the cornerstone for the Ulster farm at a dedication ceremony held at the Museum in April 1987. Meanwhile, a German farm was identified for acquisition in the Rhineland village of Hördt. The Museum also acquired a surviving nineteenth century American farm in Botetourt County, Virginia, which was dismantled and reconstructed on the Museum site. In September 1988, the Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia officially opened to the public with a ceremony attended by the British Ambassador, the German Ambassador, the Undersecretary of State of Northern Ireland, and the Governor of Virginia.
Reconstruction of the German farmhouse took place in 1991, and the German Ambassador dedicated the house during a ceremony in October of that year. Reconstruction of the timber-frame barn at the German site continued during 1993 and 1994. A second German timber-frame barn from the Rhineland village of Heyna was completed and dedicated in 2001. A seventeenth English farmhouse was acquired and brought to the Museum in the spring of 1992, and reconstruction began later that year. This structure was completed and dedicated in May 1993, with Governor Doug Wilder of Virginia and dignitaries from the British Embassy taking part in the ceremony. The Museum's Ulster forge, from County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, was reconstructed and dedicated in May 1995.
In addition to the historic site buildings, two other significant structures have been renovated at the Museum for public use. An unusual early 20th century octagonal barn from Rockingham County, Virginia was acquired and reassembled with private funds. It opened as special events facility available for public use in October 1992. In November of that year, Virginia voters approved a bond referendum that made funds available to the Museum for renovation of one of two large dairy barns on the grounds as an Education and Research Center. This 13,000-square foot facility, which includes and educational workshop area, lecture hall, research library, and staff offices, opened for public use in 1994.
As it seeks to carry out its mission the Frontier Culture Museum will continue to grow. This growth will include the acquisition and restoration of historic structures, the addition of historic artifacts and high quality reproductions to its collections, the expansion of its research collections, the offering of a range of exhibits, and the provision of expanded interpretive programs for children and adults.
The Frontier Culture Museum is a unique museum where visitors learn how different groups from the Old World came together in the early Valley of Virginia to form a new American culture. Here students learn in a setting where history comes to life through costumed interpretation and hands-on demonstrations rather than the conventional classroom of text books and lectures. These hands-on history lessons are presented at four authentically reconstructed working farms from 1600s England, 1700s Ireland and Germany, 1800s Virginia, and at a 1700s working forge from Ireland. The European farms and forge present life as early immigrants to America lived it in their homelands, and the American farm presents the new American way-of-life they created together in the Valley of Virginia by the mid-1800s.
In the years ahead, the Museum will expand its historical exhibits to create new learning opportunities. This expansion will include an American Indian site, an early settler homestead, an authentic log house built by a German immigrant, a working grist mill, and an early Valley of Virginia village. It will also include the addition of a West African site where the many important contributions Africans and their American descendents have made to the creation of the American way-of-life will be presented. Together these additions to the Museum will provide students with a more detailed and complete picture of Virginia and America's past.
Farm Tours: The Frontier Culture Museum offers a range of field trip programs designed to support the Virginia Standards of Learning by providing students with a better understanding of the origins of American culture, the contributions of different Old World groups to the creation of that culture, and of how people lived in the past. Each of these programs features an extensive, two-hour tour of the Museum's historic sites, and includes many opportunities for hands-on learning with the Museum's costumed interpreters. Tour guides are provided by the Museum.
Farming and Food - SOL # History and Social Studies K.1, K.2, K.6, 1.1, 1.12, 2.3, 3.12, VS.1d and f and g, VS.4b, USI.1b and d, VUS.1c, VUS.3
The Farming and Food program offers students an opportunity to learn how the people of the past raised and prepared their food. Students are invited to participate in planting and tending crops in the Museum's fields and gardens, in harvesting and preparing grains and vegetables for storage and cooking, and in planning and preparing meals the old way. Traditional farming tools and practices are featured in this program, as are historic cooking implements and techniques. This program teaches students that in the past food did not come from the supermarket, and that having enough to eat required a lot of time and hard work. Hands-on activities vary from farm-to-farm and with the seasons. This program is suitable for all ages and grade levels.
Daily Life - SOL # - History and Social Studies K.1, K.2, K.6, 1.1, 1.12, 2.3, 3.12, VS.1d and f and g, VS.4b, USI.1b and d, VUS.1c, VUS.3
The Daily Life program is designed to provide students with a glimpse into the daily lives of people in the past. Students are invited to participate in daily household activities at each historical site, including common farm and domestic chores. They will learn old customs and practices, how clothes were made and houses built, how families, households, and communities were organized and managed, and what people did for fun before television and video-games. Hands-on activities vary from farm-to-farm and with the seasons. This program is suitable for all ages and grade levels.
Tools - SOL # - History and Social Studies K.1, K.2, K.6, 1.1, 1.12, 2.3, 3.12, VS.1d and f and g, VS.4b, USI.1b and d, USI.8c, VUS.1c, VUS.3
The Tools program is designed to provide students with an opportunity to see and use a variety traditional hand-tools and implements. The Museum's costumed interpreters explain the origins and development of hand-tools, demonstrate their use, and invite students to assist them in their work. Students learn how various tools used in the past were made, how they were used, and how they developed into the tools of today. This program is suitable for all ages and grade levels.
Animals and Farm Chores - SOL # History and Social Studies K.1, K.2, K.6, 1.1, 1.12, 2.3
The Animals and Farm Chores program is designed to introduce students to the Museum's farm animals. Students learn the origins and history of the various rare and minor breeds of farm animals featured at the Museum and the important role farm animals played in the lives of people in the past. Students are encouraged to look closely at the farm animals and, at times, are permitted to feed and touch them. Farm animals featured at the Museum include horses, cows, pigs, sheep, and a variety poultry. Among the many interesting things students will learn during this program is that horns do not make a cow a bull. This program is suitable for Kindergarten and Grade 1.
Holidays in History - SOL # History and Social Studies K.1, K.2, 1.1, 1.12, 2.3, 3.12, VS.1d and f and g, VS.4b, USI.1b and d, USI.5a, VUS.1c
The Holidays in History is a special program offered in December in which students learn the ways Christmas was or was not celebrated in the past, and trace the origins of the modern American Christmas. Students Wassail on the 1600s English Farm, learn the origins of the Christmas tree on the German Farm, learn why the Ulster Scots refused to celebrate Christmas on the Irish Farm, and Belsnickle on the 1800s American Farm. This program is suitable to all age groups and grade levels.
Immigration - SOL # History and Social Studies 3.12, VS.1d and f and g, VS.3a, VS.4b, VS.6c, USI.1b, USI.5a, VUS.1c, VUS.2, VUS.3, VUS.6a, USI.8b
The Immigration program goes to the very heart of the Museum's mission. Students learn why Germans, Ulster Scots, and the English chose to leave their homelands for America in the 1600 and 1700s, what attracted them to America, and why they chose to settle in places such as the Valley of Virginia. They also learn what these immigrants contributed to the making of a distinctive American way-of-life, and how their descendents spread this way-of-life across the North American continent in the 1800s. The Museum recommends that this program include the extended program entitled, Coming to America. This program is suitable for grade levels 3 to 12, and is especially recommended for Middle School grades.
Extended Programs: The Frontier Culture Museum offers five, intensive Extended Programs that expand upon the themes introduced in the Farm Tours. Extended Programs are available for groups of 15 to 150, are conducted inside one the Museum's modern buildings, and last 1 hour. The number of Extended Programs available per day is limited and is scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis. They do not stand alone and must be done in conjunction with a regular farm tour.
Coming to America - SOL # - History and Social Studies - 3.12, VS.1d and f and g, VS.3a, VS.4b, USI.1b and c and d, USI.5a, VUS.1c, VUS.2, VUS.3
The Coming to America program offers an in-depth look at the lives of early immigrants to Colonial America. This program explores their reasons for leaving their homelands, for coming to America, and for settling in the Valley of Virginia. Under the direction of a museum teacher, students are provided the opportunity to see and handle examples of the possessions these immigrants brought with on them their journeys, and to participate in role-playing exercises designed to give them a deeper understanding of the challenges that confronted America's early immigrants. This program is suitable for grade levels 3-12.
Through a Child's Eyes - SOL # - History and Social Studies K.1, K.2, 1.1, 2.3, VS.1d and f and g, VS.4b, USI.1b and d, USI.8c, VUS.1c
The Through a Child's Eyes program provides students a glimpse into the lives of children on a 1850s Valley of Virginia farm. A Museum teacher guides students through the daily round of farm life using common tools and objects and role-playing exercises. Students learn the chores typically preformed by children, the games farm children played, and what children learned in school in 1850s America. This program is suitable for grade levels 7-12.
Beyond the Blue Mountains - SOL # - History and Social Studies VS.1d and f and g, VS.4b, VS.6a and c, USI.1a and b and c and d, USI.8b, VUS.1c
The Beyond the Blue Mountains program invites students to join Virginia Governor Alexander Spotswood and his Knights of the Golden Horseshoe as they embark on their 1716 expedition to discover what lies beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains. Students learn about the earliest explorations of the Valley of Virginia by Europeans, what they discovered, and how the region was opened to settlement. A Museum teacher provide students with a basic lesson in land surveying using early tools and equipment, and explain the process settlers followed to claim land. This program is suitable for grade levels 3-12.
Historic House Building - SOL# - History and Social Studies VS.1d and f and g, USI.1b and d, VUS.1c
The Historic House Building program is designed to show students how houses were built before the invention of power tools. A Museum teachers explains the steps to building a house, displays and demonstrates to tools and techniques used by early modern carpenters, and guides students in building a scale model timber frame house like those featured at the Museum. This program is suitable for grade levels 3-9.
Pleasures and Pastimes: (Teachers should choose one or two of the following focuses.) These programs are suitable for all ages and grade levels.
Songs They Sang and Strings They Strummed - SOL# - Music K.1, K.11, 1.11, 2.8, 2.10, 3.9, 3.12, 4.8, 4.12, 5.7, 5.9, MS.1, MS.5, MS.7, HS.5, HS.6
Students are presented with demonstrations of period musical instruments, as well as demonstrations of early American songs. They will also explore the Old World roots American music.
Step in Tyme - SOL# - Music K.3, K.4, 1.3, 2.3, 2.6, 3.3, 3.9, 4.3, 5.3 and Dance DM.12, DI.12, DI.13
Students participate in period dances from the Old World and the New.
Home Spun Leisure Fun - SOL# - English 3.1, 3.5, 4.4, 7.5, 9.3 and History K.2, 1.12, 2.12, 3.12, VS.4 (b), USI.1 (b)(d) and Theatre M.6, M.7, M.8, TI.7, TI.8
Storytelling, folklore and dramatic parlor games.entertainment with a moral. Students will learn about how people in Europe and America would pass the time in bad weather and on special occasions.
New for Spring 2005 - Programs with the Wildlife Center of Virginia.
The Museum is pleased to announce a new series of special programs presented to school groups in cooperation with the nationally recognized Wildlife Center of Virginia. Central to these programs are animals rehabilitated by the Wildlife Center with presentations by its educators on the natural environment and the impact of human settlement and development on the environment and wildlife. The programs are conducted at the Museum's educational facilities and are 45 to 60 minutes in length. The programs are designed to complement the Museum's educational programs and to incorporate Social Science and Science Standards of Learning in to one all-day field trip.
Combined Museum and Wildlife Center programs are offered weekly beginning March 15, 2005, and must be reserved with a Museum tour at least three weeks in advance, subject to availability. The charge for a Wildlife Center extended program is $5 per person in addition to the $5 per student and the $7 per chaperone cost of the Museum tour. The minimum charge per program is $125. Wildlife Center programs do not stand alone and must be done in conjunction with a regular Museum tour. Teachers attend all tours and programs free. Call the Museum for more information about this exciting new partnership!
The Children's Art Network in cooperation with the Frontier Culture Museum will present unique programs designed to compliment and enhance your student's museum experience. Students will be introduced to folk art, by producing creative art pieces which make the important connection with past traditions. All programs are designed to enhance and teach Virginia Standards of Learning in Social Studies and the Fine Arts.
Combined Museum and Children's Art Network programs are offered weekly beginning September 12, 2005, and must be reserved with a Museum tour at least three weeks in advance, subject to availability. The charge for a Children's Art Network extended program is an additional $7 per person. The maximum number of students per program is 72. Children's Art Network programs must be scheduled in conjunction with a regular Museum tour. Teachers attend all tours and programs free. Call the Museum for more information 540-332-7850 ext. 115