Funding the Arts: Wytheville, Va. Department of Museums
By ANGELA WAMPLER | September 30, 2008In 1967, when the Town of Wytheville purchased the home of Wytheville's first resident physician, the Haller-Gibboney Rock House, it agreed to partner with the Wythe County Historical Society to operate the circa 1823 residence as a museum. This arrangement led to the purchase in 1972 of the Town's first agricultural classroom building (ca. 1926), which became the Thomas J. Boyd Museum, located beside the Haller-Gibboney Rock House Museum.
By the early 1990s, the Wythe County Historical Society's membership had dwindled, and they were unable to care for the collections or to have the facilities open on a regular basis. The Town of Wytheville officials realized the importance of preserving these historic buildings and their collections, and understood the role that they could play in attracting heritage tourism travelers to the community.
In 1994, the Town created the Department of Museums and named Frances Emerson as the Director to oversee the development and management of the two museums and to develop and promote activities and programs for the general public. Today, the department has four full-time and five part-time employees as well as several dedicated volunteers. Additional part-time employees are added as needed for educational programs during the school year.
In 1999, the Town purchased a building that was originally part of the Wytheville High School complex. Constructed in 1934, the building was the site of the high school library and science labs. It was used as storage for many years until the Town made extensive renovations. Today the building houses the Heritage Preservation Center, the administrative center for the Department of Museums, and the Wythe County Historical Society's Research Library. It is also the home of the First Thursdays with History performance series.
In 2000, the Town entered into an agreement with Mr. and Mrs. R. Cecil Jackson to use the Willow Brook Jackson/Umberger Homestead Museum property, the homeplace of Mrs. Jackson's family, to interpret and preserve the history of Wythe County farm life from the late 1700s through the early 20th century. In addition to educational programs during the school year, the property is the site of the annual Homestead Living History Festival. The one-day event is held the fourth Saturday in September and offers farm life demonstrations, traditional music and food, and children's activities.
Currently, the Department of Museums is in the planning stages for a Great Lakes to Florida Transportation Museum on the site of a former gas station between the Homestead property and the regional visitor's center.
— - WYTHEVILLE: Heritage Education Program
— - STATISTICS: Budgetary Commitments to the Arts offers a breakdown by city/town of line item appropriations for the art.
— - BACK to the main story.
Wytheville's first agricultural classroom building (ca. 1926) is now the Thomas J. Boyd Museum. (Photo courtesy Wytheville Department of Museums)
The Haller-Gibboney Rock House Museum was originally the home of Wytheville's first resident physician. (Photo courtesy Wytheville Department of Museums)