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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
During the Colonial era, Montgomery County was considered to be the western edge of settlement. Yet, it is not the location we generally mean when we think of “The West.”
This mythos was created in large part by the Wild West Shows
that toured the country during the late-nineteenth century. The shows presented
the culture of the Plains Indian as the only
American Indian and the cowboy as a hero.
William F. Cody founded “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” in 1883. The show featured “frontier characters” performing riding and shooting exhibitions, rodeo activities, theatrical reenactments, and more. Cody’s show joined with a similar show founded by Gordon Lillie (aka “Pawnee Bill”) in 1908 to become “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Pawnee Bill’s Far East” show. Arriving in Roanoke in October 1911, the Roanoke Times wrote that the pair had: ” . . . united their forces for the purpose of giving the people of America an anthropological exhibit of the globe.” The show performed again in 1913 and was described as the “original ‘movies’.”
The Wild West shows, along with circuses, minstrel shows,
musical performances and more toured the country and stopped in Montgomery
County regularly. To learn more about how Montgomery County residents got their
kicks, view the newly opened exhibit “Entertain Me!: Montgomery County Traveling
Shows” at the Montgomery Museum of Art and History.