Southwest Virginia Museum State Park
Big Stone Gap, VA

Park Size: One block.

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.The museum tells the story of the 1890s coal boom and chronicles early exploration and settlement of the region. By the mid-1700s, settlers looking for a fresh start were traveling south out of Pennsylvania and Maryland into the valley of Virginia. In 1775 Daniel Boone pushed the Wilderness Road through Cumberland Gap, opening the way west. The flow of immigrants into and through southwestern Virginia increased dramatically.

Braving the unknown and constantly facing the threat of Indian attacks, pioneer settlers were almost totally dependent on the land, their own skills and the contents of their wagon for their every need. Displays of tools, household furnishings, quilts and early commerce tell the story of these hardy pioneers. There are also displays about the area's coal mining booms and busts, and there's an interactive kiosk that features life and labor in the coal camps.

Features a collection comprised of more than 20,000 pieces, about one third of which is on display at any given time.

The museum 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.

No camping, cabins or swimming available.

The museum is an Audubon Bird Sanctuary, and many various songbirds can be seen on the grounds. A permanent outdoor exhibit, the Southwest Virginia Walk of Fame, showcases the region’s heritage. The exhibit advances the knowledge, awareness and appreciation of renowned Southwest Virginians, past and present, who have made significant contributions to the commonwealth, the nation and the world.

A gift shop on the first floor is stocked with various items reflecting the region's history and culture. The shop offers Victorian-themed collectibles, historically themed children’s toys and games, locally produced crafts, Virginia State Parks souvenirs, many books about local and regional history, and much more. Check out books written by world-renowned authors John Fox Jr. and Adriana Trigiani, both of whom called Big Stone Gap home.

The museum offers a variety of workshops, children’s activities, musical offerings and interpretive programs throughout the year.

The museum also displays rotating and outreach exhibits throughout the year. Archival services, including a new virtual exhibit room, also are available.

Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park
10 West First Street
Big Stone Gap, VA 24219-0742
Phone: (276) 523-1322

LOCATION: The museum is in Big Stone Gap, off U. S. 23, at the corner of W. First Street North and Wood Avenue. It is 14 miles south of Norton and 35 miles northwest of Kingsport, Tenn. The facility is nestled in the Appalachian Mountains. Neighboring areas of Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina are only a one to two hour drive away. Its address is 10 West First Street North, Big Stone Gap, VA  24219.

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