Southwest Virginia Museum, Big Stone Gap

The museum is housed in a mansion built in the 1880s by Rufus Ayers, a Virginia attorney general. The museum was bequeathed to the commonwealth in 1946 by C. Bascom Slemp, private secretary to President Calvin Coolidge and a member of the U. S. Congress. The museum was officially dedicated by the state in 1948. It features a collection comprised of more than 20,000 pieces, about one third of which is on display at any given time. The museum chronicles the exploration and development of the region during the 1890s coal boom, as well as the pioneer period. It offers activities for kids, scout and school programs, workshops, an annual Festival of Trees program, a quilt show, a music festival and outdoor exhibits. The museum sells archival supplies and offers the opportunity to have pictures of collection pieces copied, as well as copies of reference files. A gift shop at the museum features Victorian-era and pioneer items, local crafts, a large selection of books and Virginia State Parks itmes. The Victorian Parlor there is available for rent for business and social occasions.
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Southwest Virginia Museum Reviews
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32 reviews
  • If you are in the area at Christmas this is a good one. It is a large mansion turned into a museum. Worth seeing, possibly but at Christmas Season they have Christmas trees decorated by different grou...  more »
  • While visiting the Big Stone Gap area recently, we visited the Southwest Virginia Museum. What a delight! The building is a fabulous historic structure and the tour (self guided) is amazing. After wat...  more »
  • Stopped in with my kids on a whim. It was a rainy day and we needed a way to spend an hour or so. Its a beautiful Victorian mansion turned museum about the history of SW Virginia. Had some very intere...  more »
  • Nice museum! Loved the woodwork! Good gift shop and friendly, helpful staff!
  • Weird state park - It's a museum. Was interesting though.
  • Could be a little more interactive, but over all this is the place to go if you want to know the history of the region.
  • Beautiful building & grounds. It was closed when we got there, but would go back. Worth walking the block around to see other beautiful homes.
  • Excellent museum to learn about the history of this area

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