Living History at its best, a fun interactive experience for all ages exploring the valley’s Old World and America’s New World.
I have driven by Frontier Culture Museum seeing it from Interstate 81 and always wondered exactly what was it. From the road looking at the settlements, I just thought it was old houses that had been moved to Virginia to replicate Virginia’s past history – sort of like Williamsburg or Jamestown but not particularly drawing me in to visit or to bring my grandchildren and no way would we truly experience the life of these settlers.
A new member of the Kids Trail, Frontier Culture Museum is a very interactive museum where children and adults can experience life many years ago. First by exploring the Old World and then moving over to New America. I took my granddaughters, Katherine (9) and Addison (7) there on August 7th and had a wonderful time. I would definitely recommend renting a golf cart since there are over 320 acres you will be exploring. However there is also a shuttle that you can use as well if you are patient to wait to get to the next exhibit.
There is a map that keeps you from getting lost and setting a direction to the day. We started with the Old World and our first stop was a 1700’s South African Farm. We learnt about the hierarchy of a village with the Men’s houses vs the Women houses and girls marrying by 12 years old. One thing that is amazing about the exhibits is that they are for real —- really real. Although they used the clay of Virginia, the roof material was shipped from Africa. The Irish, German, and English homes were actually broken down and brought over in crates from Europe. One thing I liked about the museum was the freedom of the children to explore the various exhibits. There was no need to wait on Nana – the exhibits entrances were inviting and welcomed them in without worry of breaking something.
After leaving the African village, our next stop was to an English home. Still dirt floor but a two story. We enjoyed learning about how hard the children had to work in the 1600’s and how limited their living space was with the so called main room serving as the kitchen, daily living area, and the bedroom at night. With everyone except for the parents sleeping on blankets put on the floor. The children learned how important oats were with porridge being the main food staple and very little meat consumed for the average family. It would take a good hour to make a cup of flour from oats, a task for the 5 year old. Sewing was a task taught very early with older children by 9 going to school to learn the art of spinning wool. All of the settlements showed the women wearing their shifts all day which were also their nightgowns and with aprons over top and the use of a corset. It was interesting that pockets were actually separate from the aprons. A discussion of how people bathed came up and we learnt that baths were a once to twice yearly happening since it was believed that water took the oils out of your skins. With this in mind, the one thing that Frontier Culture could not duplicate thank goodness is the smells of that period, particularly from the people who found bathing to be a bad thing.
Visiting an Irish Forge was fascinating. We learned that there were two metals the blacksmith worked with – iron and steel. We also learned that only steel was dipped in the water bath which automatically made it very hard. After reading a letter posted for the village, we learned about apprenticeships. It was the law that if an apprentice ran away, it was the duty of the blacksmith to post it to the village alerting them that this rogue was gone and needed to be returned to his master. We also learned that “s” were written like “j” which made it very difficult at first to read the letter. By attempting to pull a water pail up from a well, the girls realized that by the time you filled the bath tub you would have been exalted from running in and out to the well outside. There was no running water. Which also meant no working bathrooms,with the chamber pot being a must underneath one’s bed.
Perhaps the the most fun was in the new world or America. The children loved the Indian village and seeing that the sunflowers were being harvested along with the corn. The first American settlement, Katherine found out how rhythm was essential to sawing a log with a two handle saw. It was also very hard work. Playing checkers with round and square wood pieces was fun on the large veranda porch at the 1820’s American farm. And the school house master soon had the girls appreciating their schools today. The crack of the whip brought home the old world’s way of disciplining children. My youngest, Addison, found that the needle, thimble, and thread definitely held her interest. A quilt was being started with the help of Virginia Quilt Museum of Harrisonburg to authenticate the design.
The girls walked out definitely saying the word “cool” and “a great time, Nana” which is always my sign that Frontier Culture Museum had passed the test as a “must experience” adventure from Bucket of the Kids Trail. Check out upcoming events on the 2015 event calendar and plan your visit today! Suggestion: Purchasing an Annual Pass is a great deal if you want to visit 2 or more times in 2015!