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The Blue & Gray Press | September 25, 2018

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James Monroe Museum offers education and experience for community


While it is fairly common knowledge that there are various museums in the area that are open to the student body and the community, what specific activities are available at these museums is a topic that is relatively unknown.

One museum in particular that has some exciting events coming up is the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library located in historic downtown Fredericksburg.

The museum opened in 1927 and belongs to the American Association for State and Local History, as well as the Virginia Association of Museums. It houses an extensive collection of artifacts and items belonging to former U.S President James Monroe, including clothes owned by Monroe himself. It also holds Elizabeth Monroe’s wedding gown. These, in addition to multiple other pieces, are available for viewing at the museum.

In an effort to incorporate the community, the museum hosts a variety of activities that cater to the diverse groups of people in the area. It also holds a few permanent events. Among these events are “James Monroe: An American Life,” which covers Monroe and his family’s life and accomplishments, “The Making of a Revolutionary,” which details Monroe’s service in the Continental Army during the American Revolution, and other events centering around James Monroe, his life, accomplishments and contributions to society.

According to museum director Scott Harris, the museum offers much of interest to “students who are political science, history or historic preservation majors, or students who are just interested in the government that runs the school.”

The museum is currently celebrating the bicentennial anniversary of the War of 1812.

“[There will be programs which] touch on that critical period in national history, particularly on its impact on the formation of an independent American identity,” Harris said.

Apart from the historical events that it holds, the museum hosts various seasonal events as well. Every Saturday in October they host yoga in the beautiful outdoor gardens at the museum from 9 to 10 in the morning.

On Oct. 22, Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science and international affairs and director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies, and Gerald Baliles, former Virginia Governor, will be present at a public forum discussing the history of the Virginia governorship.

“We’ll look at how that office has evolved and at its impact on the people living in Virginia,” Harris said.

While these events are geared toward the entire Fredericksburg community, all are student friendly.

“I find it a little strange that they have yoga,” senior math major SunJeung Yoon said. “But I think it’s good too – it’s the sort of thing that everyone can participate in.”

However, some students are not as familiar with the museum, and as a result miss out on the events they offer.

“I think it would be interesting if they incorporated more with the school,” senior Spanish and environmental science double major Emily Gibbs said. “I’ve never been, and I’d be more likely to go if they were more involved with the school.”

The museum serves as an administrative unit of the university itself, and as such offers resources for anyone on or off campus to use in any recreational or vocational activities. The museum also holds connections to many of the school’s recreational activities, as it is the headquarters for the annual Ghostwalk, which celebrates its 30 year anniversary this year.

Museum admission is free to University of Mary Washington students.