Museum of Culpeper History reopens to the public

By Josh Gully 

The Museum of Culpeper History will re-open its doors to the public 10 a.m. April 15 after being closed for over a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Morgan Pierce, the museum's executive director, says in a news release that the museum has missed greeting visitors from around the world and it will "be exciting to see our local friends and neighbors return for a visit."

In coordination with the reopening, there will be five new exhibits on display. 

The new exhibits on view include: “Pride and Pageantry: The Town’s Bicentennial Celebration of 1959” – featuring photographs and media coverage of the event as well as the Queen’s gown and key to the town, “Crazy in Culpeper” – featuring a rotating display of locally-made crazy quilts, “Toy Soldiers: The Civil War in Miniature” – featuring a prominent collection of French-made Union and Confederate tin soldiers, “Preservation Culpeper: The A.P. Hill Building” – discussing the preservation of the A. P. Hill Building in the early 2000s and featuring original building artifacts, and “Artists in Culpeper: Elisabeth Piatt” – the next in a series of exhibits showcasing the work of local Culpeper artists.

Adhering to guidelines established by the Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there will be several new safety procedures in place.

Visitation will be limited to 12 visitors and signage will provide reminders to practice social distancing, not to touch certain areas and to use hand sanitizer stations. All visitors over 5 must wear face coverings and visitors feeling ill are asked to remain at home until their symptoms disappear. Directional arrows will also help guide visitors through a one-way navigation of the galleries.

The Museum of Culpeper History is located in the historic train depot at 113 S. Commerce St. The Museum will be open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday-Monday and is free to all children and county residents.

Museum funding

Culpeper County's financial contribution to the museum has been the topic during recent board of supervisors meetings. 

During a March 18 budgetary work session, County Administrator John Egertson polled supervisors' interest regarding allocations for several agencies including the museum. Last year, the county provided the museum $10,000.

Pierce explained the county's annual funding amounts to about 10% of the museum's budget and the museum in turn provides free general admissions for county residents. He added that the museum is principally funded by charitable community contributions while also depending on revenue from fundraising, shop income, admissions and town funding.

Supervisors Tom Underwood and Paul Bates both agreed that they do not support providing the $10,000. Underwood said his opposition lies in the fact that the museum failed to seize opportunities to re-open.

While state guidelines allowed museums to reopen last summer Pierce said in February that it remained closed based on available staff resources. 

He said the museum’s core group of about 15 volunteers’ interest in returning “dropped to practically zero” amid the pandemic. Additionally, he noted that the museum’s entry and exit is in the same hallway, thus preventing six-foot social distancing guidelines.

While board Chairman Gary Deal said he is disappointed the museum has not been open, he does not want to penalize an important community facility because of “human error” and “decision making.” Supervisor Jack Frazier suggested keeping the museum’s local funding at $10,000. The supervisors will ultimately decide on whether to give the allocation during upcoming budgetary meetings. 

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