Saturday, September 21, 2013

Frontier Culture Museum: Silver Anniversary celebration brings together Staunton, Waynesboro, Augusta County

 Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia celebrated 25 years on Thursday.

In the 1980s, an empty field alongside Richmond Road in Staunton, Virginia, fueled a dream for a museum that would tell the story of those who walked this land before us.

Twenty-five years later, the Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia is a thriving, teaching, hands-on museum that was recently voted one of the top 10 places for kids to fall in love with history. It is made up of original and reproduced homesteads from the countries that began the immigration to America ... the Old World's England, Ireland, Germany, Africa, and the Irish Forge. In the New World, the American homestead showcases a 1740s log cabin,  1820s and 1850s farm houses, barn, and a one-room school house, and the 1700s Native American village showcases the life of the very earliest Valley inhabitants.

Offering summer camps, homeschool days, winter workshops, forums, and special events such as wine festivals, the annual beach party, and Oktoberfest, the museum continues to grow with future plans for the Montgomery Springs village. With its location in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Frontier Culture Museum brings history alive and is a popular day's visit for all ages.

To celebrate the silver anniversary milestone, a party was held Thursday, September 19, 2013, at the museum's Cochran Pavilion with invited guests from throughout the surrounding communities of Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County. I left my camera in the car so these photos are courtesy of Jack Cameron, a volunteer at the museum, who was there with his wife.

Those who attended included elected officials, patrons who have generously provided financial support, volunteers, staff, interpreters, and board members. The pavilion was packed as members of the Waynesboro Symphony Orchestra played and guests enjoyed drinks, d'oeuvres, and fellowship with friends and neighbors.

A little speechifying is part of such an event, and Executive Director John Avoli was on board to welcome guests and thank everyone for their support. Long-time board member Paul Vames, Chairman of the Trustees and whom I'm proud to serve with on that board, offered remarks that remembered the museum's roots. He thanked those who had the vision, and the ones who helped put that vision in place. It was rounded out with a toast from Tom Sheets who remembered the pioneers who were here before us.

At our trustees meeting Friday morning, I asked Mr. Vames if I could reprint his remarks and he graciously shared them. Many thanks to him, and to everyone who helps make the Frontier Culture Museum a jewel in the crown of the Shenandoah Valley.
Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia
25th Anniversary Keynote Remarks
By Paul Vames, Chairman, Board of Trustees

For many years now, the Frontier Culture Museum has focused on its future and on moving forward as an institution. We’ve expanded our exhibits and programs, and worked to bring more school students and general visitors to enjoy this extraordinary Museum that we’ve come together this evening to celebrate.

But now we want to pause for just a few moments to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Museum’s official dedication and opening to the public. In doing this, we want to remember that the ceremony that took place on September 9, 1988, represented the culmination of more than a decade of planning, organizing, negotiating, and fund-raising on the part of many people whose imaginations were captured by a vision of what this Museum could be. Sadly, many of the key leaders of that effort have left us over the course of these twenty-five years, and we miss them here this evening.

I ask you to remember Eric Montgomery, Governor John Dalton, Lewis McMurran, Justice George Cochran, General Arch Sproul, Dick Robertson and Klaus Wust for their vision and leadership in taking this idea for a museum and making it real. We hope they’re smiling down on us and that they’re pleased with the results of their work.

I now want to recognize the contributions of several people who were unable to be with us tonight due to scheduling conflicts and other commitments: Senator John Warner, Governors Chuck Robb, Gerald Baliles, Doug Wilder and George Allen, and Senator Emmett Hanger, and Dr. Henry Glassie.

While we regret these excellent people could not be here to celebrate with us this evening, we are blessed and honored to have several of the people with us here tonight who also played vital important roles in bringing the Museum effort to that September day: Lee Cochran, Senator Frank Nolen, Walt Hyer, and Carlton Abbott.

Now, I want to recognize a fairly small group of people who have served this institution in official capacities over the years. I will begin with the Presidents of the American Frontier Culture Foundation: General Archibald Sproul, Mrs. Lisa Moore, Mr. John Avoli, Mr. Paul Vames, Mrs. Peggy Sheets, Mrs. Rica Caps, and Mr. John Dod.

Next I want to recognize Chairman and one Chairwoman who have presided over the Board of Trustees: the Honorable George M. Cochran, the Honorable Emmett W. Hanger, Jr., Ms. Gail Nardi and Mr. Paul Vames.

The next group I will recognize this evening are the people who have served as Executive Director of The Frontier Culture Museum. The first is Mr. Walter Heyer, who was the founding director. Walt was exceeded on an interim bases by Dr. Susan Hanson who was followed by Mr. John Walters, Mr. Gene McCombs served briefly as interim executive director and was succeeded by Ms. Jane McCome who served only briefly. She was succeeded on an interim basis by Mrs. Peggy Sheets, who then passed the office to Mr. John Avoli, who still holds it today.

It’s interesting to note that on the day it was dedicated back in 1988 the Museum wasn’t quite finished: the Visitor Center, Museum Store, and Administration Building were still under construction, and only two of the four proposed outdoor exhibits were in place; what were then called the Ulster and Appalachian Farms. It was called the Museum of American Frontier Culture.

Much has happened at the Museum since September 9, 1988. Over the following decade the German and English Farms were put in place to complete the original plan for the Museum, and a fifth outdoor exhibit, the Ulster Forge, was added. The next ten years saw the Museum both double in the area dedicated to its outdoor exhibits and in the number of those exhibits.

This period has seen the completion of the Hayna Barn on the German Farm, the creation of a new American area of the Museum with the addition of the Bowman House, the relocation of the American Farm to that new area, the construction of the West African Farm, the beginning of the Settler Farm, the reconstruction of the Schuler School House, and the beginning of an American Indian Exhibit.

Through all of this the Museum has suffered repeated budget reductions that resulted in some very dramatic staff reductions; but with patience and persistence, and much timely support from the American Frontier Culture Foundation, we have continued to grow and move forward, and we are not planning to stop any time soon.

In the weeks ahead the Museum staff will begin the work of documenting, dismantling, restoring, and reconstructing the Mount Tabor United Methodist Church in the American area. In this year’s appropriation we received nearly $200,000 to begin detailed planning for a water powered grist mill. We’ll continue to develop plans for a Crossing Gallery to tie the old world and American areas together, and for an early American village that we have named Montgomery Springs in honor of Eric Montgomery, who had the original idea for this Museum and worked so hard to see it become a reality.

Our invitation to you to attend this celebration is our recognition of your contributions to this Museum’s success and is an expression of our gratitude. Some of you helped bring the Museum to that day in 1988 and to see it completed as it was originally planned. Others of you worked and continue to work to expand that original plan and bring the Museum to where it is today and where it will be this time next year and the year after that.

The plaques on display here this evening contain names of the hundreds of people and businesses that gave their money and time to build this Museum. They have been on display in the breezeway outside of the Visitor Center for nearly 25 years but we want to call your attention to them tonight and we thank everyone whose name appears on them.

It is paramount for nonprofit organizations such as this Museum to succeed to have had great Board Members that have provided time, effort, guidance and have given financial support through the years.

We have been very fortunate to have had very capable hard working and committed Board Members both on the Foundation and the Trustees. At this time I would like all past and present Board of Directors of our Foundation and all past and present members of our Board of Trustees to stand and be recognized. Thank you all.

Now I want to both recognize and thank our employees, staff and volunteers both past and present. would you please stand. I sincerely believe we would not be having this celebration this evening if it weren’t for your efforts. Thanks to all of you.

I want to encourage everyone to stay and visit for a while and enjoy your selves, and get acquainted or reacquainted as the case may be. We thank you for your attendance this evening and also thank you for all your help and support through the years, and look forward to seeing you again soon.
If you haven't visited the museum, come on out and see for yourself what it's all about. We have golf carts for rent for those who have mobility issues or small children as well as golf cart shuttles moving visitors around the property. Enjoy a picnic at our tables, and be sure to stop by the museum gift shop for some of our mouth-watering fudge.

See you at the Frontier Culture Museum of Virginia!

Photos courtesy of Jack Cameron

Other posts about the Frontier Culture Museum (FCMV):
- FCMV celebrates 25 years with 1988 admission prices
- FCMV is one of '10 Places for Kids to Fall in LOVE with History'
- Trixie at the FCMV
- #1 ... Frontier Culture Museum in pictures
- #2 ... Frontier Culture Museum in pictures
- #3 ... Frontier Culture Museum in pictures
- FCMV adds sweet taste of fudge to Highland Maple Festival
- Sally Landes: Lady of the English house
- Holiday lantern tours at Frontier Culture Museum
- FCMV winter lectures series
- May Day
- FCMV in winter
- Bluebird trail
- Creepy Tales
- Orientation Day
- More photos from orientation day
- Homeschool Day
- Photos

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