NRV Black History Collection of books and pamphlets.

NRV Black History Collection of books and pamphlets.

Press release:

MONTGOMERY COUNTY-RADFORD CITY-FLOYD COUNTY BRANCH OF THE NAACP PARTNERS WITH MONTGOMERY MUSEUM TO MAKE AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY AND CULTURE MORE ACCESSIBLE

The Education Committee of the Montgomery County-Radford City-Floyd County Branch of the NAACP (MRF Branch) has organized the NRV Black History Collection of books and pamphlets.  The purpose of the collection is to make local African American history more accessible to the community by providing resources to local museums. The public, students, and community groups can gather to research and experience local history through this robust collection.

On Thursday, August 11, from 5-7pm, the Montgomery Museum of Art and History will have an open house in conjunction with its summer Membership Mingle. At 6pm the MRF Branch will formally present its Black History Collection to the museum, including the newly created history booklets.  The event will take place at the museum’s new location, 4 East Main Street, Christiansburg, VA and all are welcome for this historic community event. “We are honored to partner with the Montgomery County-Radford City-Floyd County Branch of the NAACP to make African American history and culture more accessible to all within the New River Valley,” said Executive Director, Casey Jenkins of the Montgomery Museum. Deborah Travis, President of the NAACP Branch, stated “this project would not have been possible without the support of the community.  We are excited to make these materials available through the museum and embrace the value it will bring to our community.”

The collection was curated by the Education Committee in consultation with curators of local history museums, and with history and sociology professors from Virginia Tech and Radford University.  This collection has come to life through the generous contributions of community members who purchased and donated books from a designated book list. Generous support from these donors also allowed the Education Committee to purchase and acquire rare literature and cover the cost of printing and binding of certain booklets.

The collection has two parts: 25 books that tell the history of African Americans in the New River Valley and the greater region of Appalachia, and 8 booklets that focus more narrowly on the New River Valley and the lived experiences of African Americans in Montgomery, Floyd, and Pulaski counties and Radford City.  The subjects covered include coal mining, local education, slavery and segregation, massive resistance, and reconciliation within the region.  In addition to printed material there will be QR codes to access documented oral histories.

Two sets of the Book Collection have been donated to the Montgomery Museum of Art & History.  The following quotation is printed on the bookplate inside each book: “There is no more powerful force than a people steeped in their history. And there is no higher cause than honoring our struggle and ancestors by remembering.” -Lonnie Bunch, Founding Director of the National Museum of African History and Culture

Look at This One! Photo Exhibit

Haven’t we all said it when we see a great photograph? In these conversations, “Look at this one!” is often followed by “It looks like they are…..” It is that moment of inspiration that this new exhibit captures. What do these photographs make you think of? We invite you to help curate this exhibit by adding your funny, apt, and poignant captions.

 

Museum participates in History Hunt SWVA

Explore the past in SW Virginia this summer with a historic scavenger hunt!

Sixteen history museums, from Bedford to Wytheville, are partnering to celebrate the 350th Anniversary of the Batts & Fallam [aka Batte & Hallom] Expedition

Three hundred and fifty years ago, explorers Thomas Batts [Batte] and Robert Fallam [Hallom] set out from what is now Petersburg on a quest to find a land route to the Pacific Ocean. Their journal records their visit to this region, making them some of the earliest—and perhaps the first—European explorers to reach southwest Virginia. This summer, sixteen history museums across the region are recreating that spirit of exploration with a scavenger hunt of historic proportions.

This summer will be a great time to get out and explore SW Virginia history! Each museum tells its own unique and fascinating story; in addition, each site has selected a special scavenger hunt challenge question that adds to the fun. Visitors are encouraged to pick up a History Passport at any participating museum or download a copy at the History Hunt SW VA Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/HistoryHuntSWVA. The History Passport includes all of the scavenger hunt questions, plus information about each participating museum.

The majority of these museums offer free admission, or free admission for children participating in this passport program. Hours also vary: call ahead or check museum websites for the days of the week and hours each is open. Families and visitors of all ages are welcome and encouraged to join in the exploration.

Visitors will be entered into a prize drawing for every five museums visited between Memorial Day and Labor Day, when they find the answers to the scavenger hunt challenge questions at each site. The drawing will take place after Labor Day.

The sixteen participating history museums stretch from Bedford to Wytheville, offering much to explore:

The Batts and Fallam [Batte and Hallom] Expedition of 1671 was funded by Abraham Wood, who hoped the expedition would discover a route to the “South Sea” just beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains. The explorers and their Native American guide headed west, but their exact route is debated by historians today. In September, the explorers noted in their journal, “we came to a very steep descent, at the foot whereof stood the Totera Town in a very rich swamp between a branch and the main River of Roanoke circled about with mountains… Here we were exceedingly civilly entertain’d. Saturday night, Sunday and Monday we staid at the Toteras.” The location of Totera Town, home of the Tutelo tribe, remains a mystery, but archaeological evidence suggests it may have been in modern Salem. While the group didn’t find a route to the Pacific, they are credited with being the first Europeans to see the New River.

For more information and to download a passport, visit History Hunt SW VA Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/HistoryHuntSWVA.

Objects Tell the Story in New Exhibit

The forty-five objects in this new exhibit now open at the Montgomery Museum of Art & History review all two hundred and forty-five-years of Montgomery County, Virginia’s history. Inspired by similar exhibits in Richmond, Virginia and the United Kingdom, this exhibition allows objects, both beautiful and mundane, to tell the Montgomery County story.

The Montgomery Museum is grateful to exhibit objects from its own extensive collections as well as those that are on display through the courtesy of Christiansburg Institute, Inc. as well as objects on loan to us from private collectors.

What were the interaction of English and German settlers with native people? View the 1790s ironstone platter once owned by the Harman family who were among the county’s earliest settlers.  A Confederate sword made in Christiansburg, juxtaposed with slave shackles enables us to think about the impact of slavery and the Civil War. Commemorative pins from the opening of Route 11 and a horse doubletree (wagon harness) helps us to consider changes brought by new technology and methods of transportation change the county.

The stories brought forth by these objects give opportunities for discussion and thought – they provide a tangible link to our past. Objects continue to be central to the role of museums. Objects celebrate, commemorate, and speak for those who came before. Join us now through December 2021 and see the stories for yourself.

Vote and Help Us Preserve Slave-made Coverlet

The Competition
Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts is part of the Virginia Association of Museum’s “Virginia Collections Initiative” implemented in 2011. VAM has supported over 180 organizations since the program’s launch.
 
This coverlet in the Montgomery Museum’s collection was made by an enslaved woman in Montgomery County and is a Top 10 Honoree. We are now competing to win additional funding for its conservation care.
 
 
How to Vote
  • You may vote once per day,
  • per IP address.
  • Vote Each Day, January 11 – January 20
  • Sign in with your email address
    Do Your Part and VOTE NOW! (and then again!) 

Coverlet History
According to family lore, the bedcovering was woven by a slave in Montgomery County on the plantation of Catherine L. Montague Trigg for her step-daughter Catherine Trigg Mosby. Passed from generation to generation, the large overshot coverlet (ca.1850) remained in the family for more than 160 years. The pattern uniformity indicates the work of one weaver, probably a woman.

We know that in 1850, there were 6 slaves held on the Trigg farm, including two women, ages 16 and 41. In 1852 and 1853, eight slaves were sold from the farm, to settle Thomas Trigg’s estate, including four women: Amy, Maria, Jane, and Margaret. Another slave, a woman, 50 years old, continued to be owned by Catherine Montague Trigg in 1860, her name has not yet been discovered. Any of these women could have been a spinner, dyer, or weaver.

A time-consuming work of art, overshot coverlets are not signed or dated. Textiles made prior to the Civil War and attributed to enslaved women are rare in museum collections nationwide. The generational memory of the Trigg coverlet is an opportunity to enrich and enhance the story of enslaved women in Montgomery County via their skilled work.

Beautiful: the Changing Faces of Beauty & Cosmetics

What makes a woman beautiful? Society’s answer changed significantly between 1870 and 1970. For better or worse, our appearance communicates something to the people around us. As cultural attitudes and codes of morality changed, so did the standards of beauty. The tools, products, and techniques that were utilized to create the ideal look tell the stories of women’s daily lives, cultural attitudes about gender and race, and the empowerment of women.
 
The new exhibit now installed at the Montgomery Museum of Art & History explores these concepts through an array of historic cosmetics and beauty aids. The impact on the beauty industry for women economically was important. The story of the young women at Christiansburg Institute who took cosmetology as part of their vocational training is told with the display of rarely seen artifacts on loan from Christiansburg Institute, Inc. Their coursework could provide a means to a viable career. Further illustrating the story of beauty attitudes and techniques are advertisements, hair care equipment and accessories, period photographs, and cosmetics packages.
 
From the influence of the moving picture industry, to the idea of women exhibiting their patriotism through their red lipstick, the exhibit raises the question: Was the rise in cosmetics empowering to women or did it exacerbate the attitude that a woman’s value was only in her appearance? Join us to view this exhibit and decide for yourself what it means to be beautiful.

New History Exhibit Now Open

If you’ve ever received a free tote bag or key chain carrying a business logo, you are familiar with promotional novelties. If you’ve ever wondered who thought of putting company logos on serving plates and salad tongs, you’ll want to join us to view the upcoming exhibit at the Montgomery Museum. You’ll see rare glimpses of long-closed businesses, view quirky novelties, and be amazed at the large assortment of goods carrying local logos!

The first promotional novelties in the United States were buttons created to commemorate the inauguration of George Washington in 1789. By the late 1800s, enterprising businessmen in Coshocton, Ohio had launched a new industry that offered advertising on everything from burlap book bags to fly swatters, yardsticks, and metal souvenir trays.

 The incredible (and continuing) success of non-paper advertising was based on visibility and loyalty. When placed on a utilitarian object, the ad remained in view of both the piece’s owner as well as anyone the owner came in contact with while using the item. The “free gift” nature of the novelties created a sense of loyalty and obligation towards the business.

Visit the Montgomery Museum’s new exhibit to see an abundance of useful goods and clever novelties that were offered to encourage new business and retain customers. Owners of large stores in Christiansburg and small general store owners in communities like Riner, Ironto, and Cambria all gave away items emblazoned with their business name.

The exhibited items highlight past businesses and illustrate how we once shopped. We hope you will join us.

Museum Minute

Visit our Facebook page to learn interesting snippets about Montgomery County history. Our new “Museum Minute” video tours have been entertaining to learn to produce to say the least! These short videos feature museum staff introducing you to some of the items on display in the museum exhibits.

https://www.facebook.com/GetToKnowMMAH/videos/559183818048405/
https://www.facebook.com/GetToKnowMMAH/videos/1440371789476665/
https://www.facebook.com/GetToKnowMMAH/videos/225290251899599/
https://www.facebook.com/GetToKnowMMAH/videos/1133974993649690/

Going to School: a Montgomery County history

The newly opened exhibit at the Montgomery Museum of Art & History explores the long history of schools in Montgomery County. A collection of objects and photographs illustrates the many challenges in providing education to children prior to 1940. Of special interest, is the School Census map on display. This map enumerates the number of children served by the county’s schools in 1940, where the children lived, and shows the locations of the schools and school districts. Photographs of many of the 59 schools in service in 1940 have been added to the map.

Playgrounds, or even grassed schoolyards, were uncommon before 1950. Community groups often raised money to buy playground equipment. Here children at Ellett School are playing games in about 1950. (D. D. Lester Collection, Montgomery Museum)

Early in the county’s history, children were educated at home with the first schools being established by local churches during the 1820s. By the 1850s, academies for both young women and young men were established at Christiansburg and Blacksburg. It was not until 1870, that Montgomery County organized its first public school. The legislation that created the state’s first public school system in 1870 also codified the requirement for separate schools for white and black students.

The number of schools in Montgomery County grew gradually after the inception of the public school system in Virginia in 1870 to peak during the late ninteenth century when one-room schools were dotted throughout the county. School consolidation begin in the 1910s and by the early 1960s, buses carried students to only a few schools.

Few schools serving either race in Montgomery County could have been considered well funded during the nineteenth or early twentieth century. Local residents often provided supplemental funding for special programs, playgrounds, and new buildings or additions. In the case of the rural African American schools at Wake Forest, Pine Woods (or Piney Woods), Shawsville, and Elliston, the funding for new buildings came not only from local residents, but from the Julius Rosenwald fund. This fund was established by philanthropist Julius Rosenwald (president of Sears, Roebuck, & Co.) in 1917 to help provide appropriate school buildings for African American children. The fund, encouraged by Booker T. Washington and supported by specialists at Tuskegee Institute, helped local communities across the South build the best possible schools. It is estimated that one-third of the African American children in the region were served by Rosenwald Schools by 1928.  For more information about Montgomery County’s Rosenwald Schools, visit Fisk University’s Rosenwald Database.

The minutes of the October 5, 1929 Montgomery County School Board meeting illustrate how basic schools in Montgomery County were during the early twentieth century. A request to add water coolers to the county’s schools was denied; instead members stated that “a bucket and dipper will be furnished.” Indoor plumbing was rare in the county’s schools. Students often traveled several miles on foot or on horseback to the nearest schoolhouse. They carried pails packed with food because few schools had lunchrooms or cafeterias prior to the 1950s.

Gradually, one-room schools were replaced during the early 1900s with two, three, or four room schools. As roads and automobiles improved during the 1920-1950 period, the pace and scale of this school consolidation increased. During the 1950s and 1960s, many of these small rural schools closed.