Current Exhibits

Crooked Road Royalty and Crooked Road Musical Styles


Southwest Virginians have an ear for music, and Crooked Road Royalty and Crooked Road Musical Styles showcase the long history of picking and singing in the mountains. Crooked Road Royalty highlights the careers of the Hill Billies, the Stoneman Family, the Carter Family, and the Stanley Brothers, four western Virginia powerhouse groups that helped build the American country music industry.  In Crooked Road Musical Styles visitors can explore the rich variety of roots music western Virginians sing and play—fiddle-and-banjo tunes, bluegrass, ballads of love and death, sentimental mountain songs, blues, and gospel.  The exhibitions include rare film footage and photographs.


“The story of American country music is filled with singers and pickers from the Crooked Road region,” says Andrew Pauly, exhibit researcher.  “Even today’s young country music stars know styles and songs that were first recorded by these early Southwest Virginia artists.”

(Open through 2018.  Underwritten by The Crooked Road:  Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail) 

Helping Hands:  Shared Work & Craft Skills


Historically in the rural areas Blue Ridge people often worked together.  On some tasks—getting up hay or putting up a barn, for instance—shared work was essential to finishing the job in a timely fashion.  For other types of work that could be done alone—such as quilting—bringing a group together could turn the task into a pleasant social event.  In the process, how-to skills were strengthened and passed along, and the folk tradition continued.


Helping Hands:  Shared Work & Craft Skills showcases the shared rural work experience with over 70 vintage images from the darkroom of western Virginia photographer Earl Palmer.  Included are shots of quilting, beekeeping, chair caning, broom making, logging, hay gathering, milling, soap making, apple butter making, and more.  Palmer took thousands of pictures of the Blue Ridge and the people living there between the 1930s and the 1980s,.  He particularly liked scenes of shared work and craft activities, and though he often staged scenes to fit his vision, the connections between the people in his images were real.  He captured on film real tradition-bearers, people whose skills were passed along through shared family and community experiences.  The images in the Helping Hands exhibition are part of the Earl Palmer Collection (20,000+ images) housed in the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum’s archives.

(Open through Spring 2019.  Underwritten by a generous gift from Peter D. Hartman.)