Fine Arts and History Museum, Danville

 

In addition to the Millionaires Row and the Tank Museum, there is so much more to see in Danville, Virginia.  As promised, this is a follow up travel blog to touch upon the another attraction that make this proud city a place to visit. 

The Sutherlin Mansion, which sits atop the rise of Millionaires Row, was built in 1857 and is the location where Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, resided during the last seven days of the confederate government when it’s previous location of Richmond, Virginia, fell to the Union Army.  It was here on April 3-10, 1865, that the last cabinet meeting was held and Davis issued the Last Proclamation of the Confederacy.  Major William Sutherlin was Quartermaster during the war and also Mayor of Danville.  His mansion later became the library of Danville and then the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History.

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After entering, the Museum director has a short chat with you and directs you to the video room for a brief introduction video to Danville and the museum itself.  After the video we were free to roam the museum using the floor map or the audio guide.   According to Tripadvisor reviews, 94% of respondents rate the museum as Very Good or higher with the majority rating it as Excellent.

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As you can guess, the museum was full of United States Civil War décor, including the dining room where the final meeting was held before President Davis was notified that General Robert E. Lee surrendered to the Union Army.  Subsequently, Davis surrendered to the Union from this location in Danville Virginia, ending the Civil War. 

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There were a number of truly interesting stories about individual prisoners with their artifacts and those of a collective whole.  Displays detailing what each soldier had to carry on his person, sketches from an artist who was held in the prison, billfolds and purses of Confederate soldiers who died in the hospital, and more bring tangible life to the Civil War in Danville.

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Just a stones throw from North Carolina, Danville converted many of its factories into hospitals and prisons during the Civil War.  Battles in the Richmond Virginia area overwhelmed their hospitals and prisons, so they sent many of them to Danville. 

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129Items from the Union Army soldier prisoners are on display in the Danville museum with a good testimony.

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135Besides the many Civil War historical items on display, there are rotating exhibits of artists.  During my visit, three Turkish artists had their work on display.   

Rasit Altun Bio

Rasit Altun Purgatory Series
Rasit Altun displayed his “Purgatory” series of paintings...

Erhan Lanpir Bio

Earth Series 1 by Erhan Lanpir
Erhan Lanpir his Sky and Earth series of acrylics...

Nevrez Akin Bio

Nevrez Akin Untitled 2018
...and Nevrez Akin untitled oil works on canvas.  I thought the “Purgatory” series was terrific.  Maybe it was my Catholic upbringing that had us youngsters gripped in fear of being sent to purgatory.

Camilla Williams Portrait

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Also, a very interesting tribute to an African-American Danville native, Camilla Ella Williams (1919-2012).  Her original portrait along with 574 other artifacts are property of the museum.  Ms. Williams was an operatic soprano and the first African-American to sing a major role with the Vienna Opera.  Her portrait hands in the museum and was painted by the noted artist Wayne Manns.  Her most famous role was that of Madam Butterfly and is included in the portrait.  She became the first African-American instructor at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, China and probably most noted for singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" before 250,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial, preceding Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.  Her 100th birthday celebration will be at the North Theater in Danville on October 18th of this year, and there is a planned four month exhibit of her museum items starting on January 19th, 2020.

The Museum located at 975 Main Street is open Tuesday thru Saturday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, and Sunday 2:00 to 5:00 pm.  Admission is $10 for adults, $8 seniors, $4 for students and free for children aged 6 years and under. 

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George G

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