Museum Plans to Grow After Raising Money for Expansion

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Militaria from local residents on display at the Vinton Museum.

The Vinton Museum on East Jackson Avenue – owned by the Town of Vinton – is a treasure trove of donated items, featuring period pieces from local residents and businesses. There are historic photographs, newspaper clippings, military uniforms (and related items), even fine art – so much in fact that the 3000 square foot former Upson House can’t hold it all or display it properly.

So the Vinton Museum staff has been working with designers on a 900 square foot addition that could take the shape of a slimmer three-story structure or a wider one-story room towards the back of the house. It will cost about $200,000 and fundraising underway includes a recently completed silent auction.

Mattie Forbes, second vice-president for the Vinton Museum, said its “different than everybody else’s.” The museum opened in 1988. The Vinton centennial celebration in 1984 triggered a call for a museum and within four years it was up and running. “Everything has been donated or loaned to us from families in the area,” said Forbes; that includes items that may have come from a Vinton address but are technically in Roanoke County.

There’s also a Town of Vinton room at the Museum, complete with archives of the weekly Vinton Messenger, information on past town managers, the mayors and Town Council that Forbes said is used for research. She encourages anyone in the Vinton area who may have historic details about their family to come forward with that story for the Town of Vinton archives room.

The Vinton Business Room contains artifacts and photos of early commercial enterprises in the area – like Vinton Weaving Mill (now Precision Fabric) and Mountain Trust Bank (numerous name changes).

Barbara Hargis, the Vinton Museum president, was hoping that vintage Elvis Presley concert posters, collector plates painted with Vinton scenes and a doll collection would be scooped up in the silent auction just completed. Visitors to the Vinton Dogwood Festival last weekend had the rare chance to stop by the Vinton Museum on a Saturday – it’s normally closed on weekends – and make a last minute auction bid.

Hargis was also hoping the open house would draw first timers as well as repeat visitors: “We’ve had people say …’I didn’t even know this place was here – I’m glad I stopped by today … I’m seeing things I haven’t seen for years.’”

The expansion plan has come about because the Vinton Museum “has run out of space,” said Hargis. The face of the building she assures, “will never change,” with the addition planned for the backside of the former Upson House. A garage next door – not to mention closets and the basement – are full of museum-worthy items, “but we don’t have a place for them,” noted Hargis. “We need to display them so folks can enjoy what we have here. We can’t do it [now] just because we don’t have the space. [It’s] a good problem.”

See the Vinton Museum Facebook page or a link on the website to the Vinton Museum page for more information. Hargis said there is no definitive fundraising deadline – they hope to seek grants as well to speed up the process.

By Gene Marrano

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