Visitors to the Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park in Big Stone Gap, Virginia are in for a few surprises as they tour the exhibits housed in the historic Ayers mansion. Exciting new interactive exhibits have been added to the museum’s permanent displays, creating a wonderful blend of technology and history which helps make the visitor’s experience truly memorable.
The upgrades to the museum’s exhibits began last year with the opening of the Virtual Exhibit room. The room provides visitors the chance to browse the museum’s photograph collection. The computer program is designed to showcase hundreds of images previously unavailable to the public. Guests can view the archives at their leisure in a comfortable atmosphere. A recorded iPod tour of the museum was also unveiled last year. The tour guides the visitors through the museum’s permanent displays. Additional slide shows are added to the iPods throughout the year, and feature major exhibits such as the annual Quilt Show and the Festival of Trees.
This year, additional installations which add depth to the historical exhibits have already caused quite a stir. An ungraded exhibit on the early schools of Southwest Virginia features artifacts not previously on display and a new digital display of school photographs from around the region. A digital slide show has also been added to the sports exhibit, featuring images of early Southwest Virginia sporting life. A third digital exhibit details the conservation projects undertaken by the Southwest Virginia Museum, including a project which restored several 19th Century French paintings in the collection. The Virtual Exhibit room has also received additional installations to help preserve and share the region’s history. A flat screen television and DVD player have been installed to allow visitors to view interviews with area residents, providing an oral history of Southwest Virginia. The interviews, recorded several years ago, were previously available on video and cassette tape only. The digitizing of these histories will ensure their preservation and availability to the public.
In the coming months, additional exhibit changes will be unveiled. A new coal exhibit will be installed in the first floor gallery. It will include an interactive touch-screen display, featuring programs centered on the life of the coal miner during Southwest Virginia’s coal boom. Additional artifacts and exhibit panels will also be installed which will help to give a more complete picture of this important part of the region’s history. Further exhibit upgrades are planned for the future and will include a hands-on children’s area and changes to the pioneer exhibit.
For more information about the the Friends of the Museum website.