Blue Ridge Institute and Museum
Exhibits on the Move
The BRI&M’s most recent textile exhibition, The Great Virginia Cover-Up: Historic Quilts & Bedcovers, came off the road in December after a six-month run at the Virginia Historical Society (VHS) in Richmond. As it did in Ferrum, the exhibition delighted quilt fans in the capital area, and it served as the centerpiece for a gathering of Richmond-area alumni at the VHS last September.
Having created and then dismantled dozens of folklife-related exhibitions, the BRI&M staff always feels a touch of loss when a show returns to us for the last time. Most of the bedcovers in The Great Virginia Cover-Up came out of private collections and had never before been shown. Those treasures now go back to their owners and likely will lie in chests and storage boxes—safe but out of public sight—for years to come.
Meanwhile, The Virginia Dulcimer: 200 Years of Bowing, Strumming, and Picking, the first exhibition on the Commonwealth’s centuries-long relationship with the dulcimer, continues to expand the public’s understanding of folk culture and to present Ferrum College scholarship to new audiences. The Virginia Dulcimer recently completed an eight-month installation at the William King Museum in Abingdon, and the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum is currently negotiating to loan the exhibition to another regional Virginia venue.
Crooked Road Dulcimer Festival
The rich drone of the dulcimer will again flow through the campus in late spring as Ferrum offers its third annual Crooked Road Dulcimer Festival, May 22–25. Unlike typical audience-based festivals, dulcimer festivals cater to the musicians themselves, who attend hands-on workshops covering all skill levels and techniques. The 2014 CRDF will offer over 40 workshops, and concerts and jams will fill the evenings. Whether you are seasoned player or a dulcimer-player wannabe, Ferrum is the place to be this spring. Visit www.crookedroaddulcimerfestival.org for details and registration.
Living, 1800 Style
Have a child or grandchild with a hunger for history—and science and art and much more? July’s Ferrum College Summer Enrichment Camp includes the BRI&M’s Living, 1800 Style among its outstanding offerings for children now in grades four through seven. Held at the farm museum, Living, 1800 Style has campers trying their hands at an array of historic skills, everything from blacksmithing and oxen driving to open-hearth cooking and cabin building. The FCSEC is an outstanding one-week residential camp at an excellent price. Find more info at www2.ferrum.edu/fcsec.
At long last the Bottoms are moving! For the past few years, the BRI&M has been steadily renovating the Blue Ridge Farm Museum, and this spring our costumed interpreters will finally greet visitors in the much-improved Bottom House complex (named for the family who originally built the house around 1800). Education coordinator Rebecca Austin and her crew of student workers are waiting for mild weather to whitewash walls, develop the new gardens, and arrange furniture in preparation for the 2014 farm museum season.
Down by the creek, the Bottom family’s still will also be finished by our April opening. Until the 1900s many productive Blue Ridge farmers and orchardists owned brandy/whiskey distilling equipment that was put to use during the harvest season. George Washington even ran a fairly large distillery at Mt. Vernon. The Blue Ridge Farm Museum’s setup, which centers around a single turnip-style still, is typical for the smaller Virginia-German farmsteads of western Virginia.
Workshops & Clinics
In May, Ferrum alumnus Dr. William Wray taught broom making to Lois Rusgrove and the other Blue Ridge Farm Museum interpreters, who in turn taught students in the college’s E-Term Museum studies class. Dr. Wray comes by his knowledge of broom making “honestly,” as they say; his mother Nana, who was a regular craft demonstrator at the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival, learned the craft from her own parents.
The Blue Ridge Institute & Museum sponsored a cart driving clinic at the stables of Roddy and Sally Moore (shown here) in Ferrum in June. Working in a ring and through an obstacle course, participants honed their driving skills over the two-day event. Ms. Moore ran the Ferrum College equestrian program in the late 1970s and ’80s.
In honor of Ferrum’s 100th birthday, the folks at the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum plowed through a trove of old college photographs and documents to create Mission in the Blue Ridge: The Early Years of Ferrum College. The centennial exhibition explores our birth as a mountain mission school and bumpy evolution into a junior college—all in an era marked by two world wars, the Great Depression, and the birth of the Baby Boomers. Mission in the Blue Ridge features a vintage Model T Ford similar to the college’s first car, plus over 80 photographs and rare 1941 film footage of students, dorm rooms, classroom activities, and campus scenes. Be sure to catch this gem of Ferrum history.