curating culpeper

There is no shortage of history within Culpeper’s county lines. From dinosaurs stomping around during the Triassic period to a young George Washington surveying the land, Culpeper has hosted many unique visitors and events. That rich past is now being highlighted by the Museum of Culpeper History, which is partnering with Culpeper Media Network to create the “Curating Culpeper” television and web series.

The first season of Curating Culpeper will feature about eight short episodes that focus on a different chapter of the county’s history.

The first episode, “Our Colonial Past,” aired this month and explores Culpeper’s 18th century origins. The camera follows the museum’s Executive Director Morgan Pierce to the Burgandine House and Fort Germanna – two historic sites open to the public – as he discusses some of the area’s first settlers.

“In 1759, the county was officially established. When Culpeper County was newly formed, there were more than 5,000 residents living and working on the land. Approximately one-third of these were enslaved persons, harvesting tobacco and grains on the plantations and farms. Closer to town, there were much smaller properties and it is quite possible the Burgandine House was one of these very early houses dating to Culpeper’s formation,” Pierce says in the show.

Susan Williams, steward of the Burgandine House, explains in the show that a lot of business was conducted in the house before the courthouse was constructed. The unique house is open for free tours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 1-5 p.m. Sundays.

Viewers can also learn about Alexander Spotswood, Virginia’s former colonial governor, who established two colonies in the area in 1714 and 1717. Pierce explained those colonies were primarily populated by German immigrants who travelled to America as indentured servants to discover riches and mine the land to work off the debt they incurred to arrive in the area. Some of those settlers' last names – including Holtzclaw and Fischbach - remain prevalent in Culpeper and surrounding areas today.

Other topics touched upon include the land grants given by Lord Fairfax and how George Washington served as the county’s original surveyor in 1749 and described Culpeper as having a “high and pleasant situation.”

While each subject reviewed in the episode could be discussed in greater detail, Pierce said the intention was to make a short video that could be quickly absorbed by viewers of any age.

“We just tried to quickly and briefly paint a picture of 18th century Culpeper – where it came from, when it was founded and who the pivotal players were in that early history,” Pierce said. “Hopefully elementary school kids will be able to pick up on some of the details. If you’re new to the area or just simply need a refresher on some of the important people, places and dates that are important to Culpeper, we hope that you’ll take something away from these episodes.”

The first episode is available on the Museum of Culpeper History Facebook page, and will be aired at different times on Culpeper Media Network.

The first season will include about eight episodes, with a new show airing monthly.

Upcoming topics will include dinosaurs during the Triassic period, early transportation and the Culpeper Minutemen.

Another show will delve into Culpeper’s unique history of presidential visits. Those include Lyndon B. Johnson’s speech from the back of a train at the depot when campaigning as John F. Kennedy’s running mate and James Monroe laying the cornerstone of St. Stephens Episcopal church during a masonic ritual.

While the idea of the show has been discussed for some time, Pierce explained it provides a new way to reach residents as the museum has been closed since March due to the coronavirus. Although the show allows the museum to continue educating the public outside of its building’s walls, Pierce said Curating Culpeper will hopefully continue once normal operations resume.

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