44.6 F
Thursday, March 30, 2023
ArlingtonHistorical museum reopens, with big plans for future

Historical museum reopens, with big plans for future

Must Read

Having reopened its museum to the public on the nation’s 245th birthday, leaders of the Arlington Historical Society are now looking ahead to completing a top-to-bottom renovation and reimagining of the facility in time for the nation’s 250th.

“What a great day it would be if we had our museum renovated, accessible to all of Arlington and telling the story of all Arlingtonians” by 2026, society president Cathy Bonneville Hix said at a July 4 celebration marking the first time the Arlington Historical Museum had been opened to the public since the pandemic began.

The museum is located in the 19th-century Hume School, located on Arlington Ridge Road. It came into the society’s possession 60 years ago, and is showing its age.

“Our museum needs some help,” Hix said to the assemblage that turned up for the opening festivities.


An eight-month feasibility study by an Arlington architectural firm has provided a roadmap to upgrade the three-level building, providing more exhibition space and expanding accessibility. Currently, exhibits are offered on the first floor only, but that could be expanded should the renovation project – estimated to cost $1.5 million – take place.

“We want to do more,” Hix said. “We have more than 4,000 artifacts – this great museum provides [a] window to the past. We don’t want to forget those stories.”

When the proposed renovation project was detailed in the spring, Hix suggested it might take 10 years to complete in phases. But the prospect of tying the project in with the nation’s looming Semiquincentennial – a word meaning “250 years” that may or may not resonate with the public the way “Bicentennial” did in 1976 – could have precipitated her call for a faster timetable.

Funding could come from individual, corporate, foundation and government sources, although historical-society officials are still sorting through a strategy. A more definitive fund-raising playbook might be available when the organization holds its annual banquet in September.

Dr. Mark Benbow, an historian who has served as museum curator for the past decade, said there is so much of a story to tell, from the Native American era to the modern day.

“I am trying to add more into every square inch,” he said of the museum’s nooks and crannies.

County Board Chairman Matt de Ferranti – one of three board members (along with Takis Karantonis and Katie Cristol) in attendance – said reopening of the museum was both a real and a symbolic measure of the arrival of the fledgling post-pandemic world.

“It is a source of joy for all of us,” de Ferranti said of the opening. “It’s been a tough year, and it’s time to enjoy life.”

(De Ferranti, perhaps wisely, opted to steer his remarks away from contentious issues related to county history that currently are playing out in the civic arena. Those, he said, were for another time.)

Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington), a member of the Arlington Historical Society board of directors, brought along a General Assembly resolution, delayed by a year due to pandemic conditions, marking the 100th anniversary of Arlington’s receiving its current name.

For those wanting the exact chronology:

• In 1801, a portion of Fairfax County was carved off from Virginia and ceded to help create the District of Columbia. It included Alexandria County [now Arlington] and the town [now city] of Alexandria.

• In 1846-47, the county and town of Alexandria were returned to the sovereignty of Virginia.

• In 1870, the town of Alexandria became a city and was politically severed from Alexandria County. Alexandria County was governed by a three-member, district-based Board of Supervisors.

• In 1920, the General Assembly renamed Alexandria County as Arlington County, in part to avoid confusion between the two jurisdictions and in part to note the 50th anniversary of the death of Robert E. Lee, who through marriage had inherited the Arlington House plantation.

• In 1932, the Arlington Board of Supervisors was replaced by a five-member, at-large County Board and appointed county manager.

• • •

Located at 1805 Arlington Ridge Road, the Arlington Historical Museum will be open on its pre-pandemic weekend schedule: Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. Admission is free. For information, see the Website at www.arlingtonhistoricalsociety.org.

- Advertisement -

Latest News

New School Board member receives liaison assignments

New Arlington School Board member Bethany Sutton has her assignments. School Board members on Feb. 2 are expected to approve...
- Advertisement -

More Articles Like This