I wanted to take a moment and call up an exceptional museum that Sheila and I recently visited—one that, whatever you’re doing, you should stop and visit at this very instant. (Or, I suppose, during your next free weekend.*)
I’m going to be cliché here, so bear with me—but the James Madison Museum in Orange, VA, was an absolutely incredible hidden gem. We were blown away by the quality of their collection, the variety of their active exhibits, and (perhaps most of all) the ingenuity of their staff.
Beth Sullivan, the museum administrator, treated us to an incredible showing of the Museum’s collections, including an original copy of the Virginia ratification of the U.S. Constitution, “Preceptor” (a beautifully illustrated educational book created for “His Highness Prince George”), and a wonderfully curated set of artifacts from the Madison life and presidency.
The James Madison Museum, like so many libraries and museums we’ve visited, relies largely on public support for its wellbeing. It’s an unfortunate consequence of this model that irreplaceable artifacts, evidence of our essential shared history, are subject to the wax and wane of Americans’ personal generosity. Many sites like these have no endowment, few (if any) grant funders, and find themselves fighting tooth and nail just to stay afloat, much less rehabilitate or further disseminate their priceless holdings.
There’s a much larger discussion to be had here about public/government funding for educational and history organizations—a conversation often fraught with differing political views and our own perceived consequences of any given approach.
But there are a few things you can do immediately, and they’re so simple:
Support your local organizations.
Make a donation, however small. (A place to start? Try the Madison roof fund.)
Join the email list.
‘Like’ them on Facebook.
Tell your friends about them.
I guarantee they’ll be grateful, and they’ll stretch your dollar so much farther than you might ever imagine.
Want a quick way to contribute? Beth has set up a GoFundMe for a much-needed new roof—take a look.
*The James Madison Museum is hosting a Plant and Bake sale THIS WEEKEND, April 25-26. Plants! Baked goods! What’s not to like?