Ferrum News

Blue Ridge Institute and Museum Breaks Ground for Expansion


Blue Ridge Institute and Museum Breaks Ground for Expansion

Oxen handle the turning of sod.

Ferrum, Va. (May 20, 2011) – The Blue Ridge Institute and Museum at Ferrum College broke ground today on a federally-funded $675,000 expansion to create additional classroom, exhibit and archive space.  Construction will begin immediately and the project is scheduled for completion by fall 2011.

Instead of a traditional groundbreaking with VIPs wielding shovels, organizers called upon “Nip & Tuck,” the adjacent Farm Museum’s oxen team, to handle the chore of turning the ceremonial sod.

“The Blue Ridge Institute, with its exhibits, research and contributions to the study of Blue Ridge and Appalachian culture, is tremendously important to the mission of the College,” said Ferrum’s President,  Jennifer Braaten.  “This expansion will allow the College to carry its study of mountain lore and culture to even more people, and because of our enrollment growth the classroom component will be especially important to our students and faculty.”

In recent years the museum found itself in dire need of additional storage and archive space.  “We are a victim of our own success,” said Museum Director Roddy Moore.  “We have accumulated a wealth of important artifacts andthe facility requires quality, climate controlled space to preserve the material.”  As just two examples of rare material needing special handling, Moore cited the Blue Ridge Heritage Archive, a permanent repository for folklife-related recordings, photographs, and documents, and BRI Recordings, which include nearly a century of Virginia folk music in Grammy-nominated compilations. 

Virgil Goode, former U.S. Congressman and former Virginia Senator, helped procure funding for the expansion while he was in office, as well as for the original museum.  Goode, a guest at today’s groundbreaking, praised the Institute for reaching the point where it needed to grow.  “It’s clear this has been a tremendously successful project for the College and the citizens of Virginia,” said Goode.

The Institute and Museum, which opened in the early 1970’s, and was designated in 1986 as the official State repository of Blue Ridge culture by the General Assembly of Virginia, receives many thousands of visitors each year, including dozens of local school groups.   It hosts the annual Blue Ridge Folklife Festival, Virginia’s largest festival of regional folkways.  It is also a designated stop on the celebrated Crooked Road, Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail, which links a number of southwest Virginia towns and venues with ties to traditional mountain music.  BRI exhibits such as “Virginia Rocks:  A History of Rockabilly in the Commonwealth” and “Moonshine Blue Ridge Style” have gone on tour after their runs at Ferrum, carrying the study of Blue Ridge culture to museums from Roanoke to Richmond and beyond.  The current exhibit, “The Virginia Dulcimer:  200 years of Bowing, Strumming & Picking,” will remain open through July 2011.