One of the most beautiful things about a new year is that most of us go into it with positive intentions, often revolving around self-improvement. While there’s really no need for a change in the date to make a fresh start, the decision to foster good habits is always a good idea 😊 And, if you resolved to expand your knowledge this year, a museum is a great place to begin. Sure, you could curl up and binge-watch a groundbreaking docuseries or dive into an award-winning nonfiction. But, sometimes, you’ve just got to break free of your “PJs all day” weekend uniform and get out of the house!
We encourage all you lifelong students to step into 2019 with a look back at the treasure trove of historical collections hosted in Loudoun’s museums. This is the best kind of outing: educational and indoor (AKA, the perfect activity for all the snowy and rainy days that the coming seasons will bring 😉). So, grab your favorite field trip friend and head to the exhibits, or be your own museum muse and take yourself on a reflective solo date 💜 Who knows, maybe you’ll even discover something about yourself — a newfound zeal for equestrian history? A resurrection of your childhood passion for rocketships? The possibilities await…
Let’s get to learning!
National Sporting Library & Museum
This Middleburg institution tells the story of sporting life through books and art. The National Sporting Library & Museum is dedicated to preserving, promoting and sharing the literature, art and culture of equestrian, angling and field sports. Founded in 1954, the institution has over 26,000-books dating from the 16th-21st centuries. The museum houses exhibits of American and European animal and sporting art.
Can’t-Miss Exhibit: “Sidesaddle, 1690-1935” presents a revealing perspective on the history and culture of women as equestrians, their depictions in sporting art and the evolution of side-saddle tack and attire represented in British, Continental and American art from the 17th to the 20th centuries. In art and sport, the poised equestrian riding aside embodies the essence of elegance, power, and grace. The exhibition showcases over sixty paintings, works on paper and sculptures and is a wonderful way to celebrate Women’s History Month (March)!
Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum
The Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum brings to life the rich farm heritage of Loudoun County through experiential, family-friendly exhibits, special events, lectures, as well as hands-on classes and programs. Bring what you learned back home when you buy from the museum’s Gift Shop, which features Virginia’s Finest label products and creative gifts for home and family.
*N.B., The Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum will temporarily close in mid-February for about 6 weeks of repair work. But, that still leaves plenty of time to get in a good visit beforehand! 👩🌾
Can’t-Miss Exhibit: The Claude Moore Children’s Farm lets your child be a "farmer for a day" in the museum’s interactive exhibit area for kids and their families. Milk a life-like cow, collect eggs from the play chickens and ride the Equi-ponies. What an engaging way to introduce your children to agriculture and get them excited about learning where their food comes from!
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
Why keep your feet on the ground when you can soar through the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center?! The 760,000 square-foot museum’s collection includes nearly 3,000 artifacts, memorabilia and archival materials that chronicle the history of aviation and spaceflight — including Space Shuttle Discovery, the B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay, a NASA android and the record-setting SR-71 Blackbird! The museum also features a restoration hangar, observation tower, a large-format IMAX theater and flight simulators. We’re officially prepared for take-off! 🙋♀️
*N.B., Due to the government shutdown, all Smithsonian museums are temporarily closed. Stay tuned for further updates on their operating status.
Can’t-Miss Exhibit: Get your head in the clouds at the "Clouds in a Bag" exhibit! The treasures in this collection provide a sense of the wonder and excitement experienced by those who witnessed the birth of flight over two centuries ago. The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. The excitement spread as daring aeronauts took to the sky in cities across Europe. The balloon was proof that the twin enterprises of science and technology could produce what looked very much like a miracle!
Morven Park and Winmill Carriage Museum
Morven Park, located on the northern edge of Leesburg, Virginia, was once the home of Virginia Governor Westmoreland Davis and his wife Marguerite. Today, the accomplishments and ideals of Governor Davis still resonate within the 1,000 acres of this one-of-a-kind place! Tour its three museums as soon as they open back up for the season on March 2nd, or just absorb the beauty of the woodlands, mountainous ridge, historic buildings and formal gardens.
Can’t-Miss Exhibit: Located at historic Morven Park, the Winmill Carriage Museum is the magnificent home to 40 historic carriages. A wide variety of antique horse-drawn vehicles from the mid-1800s and the early 1900s are featured, including Tom Thumb's coach!
Oatlands Historic House and Gardens
Mark your calendars now to head straight for Oatlands as soon as the former plantation reopens its gates in April! This National Trust site encompasses 360 acres in scenic easements and features a Greek Revival mansion dating back to c. 1804, rare 19th century brick dependencies (including America's oldest restored propagation greenhouse, c. 1810) and a magnificent four-acre English terraced garden. Oatlands offers guided tours of the mansion, and self-guided tours of the grounds and garden. Oatlands is a lovely place to spend the day!
Can’t-Miss Exhibit: The Oatlands we know today would not have been possible without the enslaved people who lived and worked here. By 1860 the Carters were the largest slave owners in Loudoun County with 133 enslaved men, women and children. Learn about their lives while walking with an Interpretive Guide on the “Enslaved Community at Oatlands Tour”.