Virginia Beach’s Best Museums

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Virginia Beach: Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum

Long a destination for tourists, Virginia Beach is more than stellar golf courses and a spectacular three-mile long-oceanfront boardwalk. Home to fascinating culture, storied — and sometimes, salacious — history, interesting architecture, high art and more, Virginia Beach offers much for the mind to ponder, even while offering vacationers a way to escape.

Established by British colonists in 1634, Virginia Beach was an important part of colonial and Revolutionary America. Even if you want just a short stay in Virginia Beach, you will quickly absorb its unique history. If you’re looking to take in some local culture and stories between golf games and sunshine, visit these museums.

The Adam Thoroughgood House

The Adam Thoroughgood House was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960. It was built around 1719, back when its inhabitants would have called themselves British citizens. For years, historians believed the house was built by Adam Thorowgood himself. These days, architectural historians are more likely to attribute the place to his grandson, Argall. Regardless of who built it, the house is a spectacular example of Colonial architecture with extensive wainscoting, paneling and a turned staircase. It is furnished in period pieces that lend it a remarkable air of authenticity. The museum offers guests the chance to experience the story of Adam Thoroughgood, who was one of the first and most successful colonists in early Virginia.

The Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum

Virginia Beach’s Wildfowl Heritage Museum is not just a museum about birds; it’s also the home of the Beck Bay Wildfowl Guild. Dedicated to the preservation and perpetuation of wildfowl artifacts and wildfowl arts, this museum — and the guild that forms its nucleus — boast a remarkable collection of antique and contemporary wildfowl decoys, murals, illustrations, paintings, photos, sculpture and more. Eastern Virginia is a main thoroughfare for migrating water birds, and the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum’s interest in the interest those creatures stoke in human craftsmanship, is fascinating. Many of the guild members are active artists and artisans dedicated to preserving the artifacts of Virginia Beach’s wildfowl heritage. In addition to a number of displays, they also have a carving room that is almost always occupied by one of their resident carvers when the museum is open.

Lynnhaven House
Photo Credit: NG71
Lynnhaven House

Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969, Lynnhaven House was built around 1725 and is a wonderful example of Tidewater Virginia vernacular architecture. Built by the Thelaball family, it was called Lynnhaven House due to the Lynnhaven River, which runs through the property. The home was once part of a plantation that covered 250 acres and was not just home to the white families who lived there, but to many slaves and their families as well. Today, the house is on a five-and-a-half acres property, but its historical and architectural significance haven’t diminished. Brick-jack arches, a close-spindle staircase, a ship’s lap-floor construction — all these details are on display in the still-regal house that boasts around 85 percent of its original construction, making it one of the best preserved colonial homes in America. A cemetery dating back to the Revolutionary War is also on the property.

art prize 2011
Photo Credit: bieber
The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art

Virginia’s MOCA is a museum dedicated to bringing awareness, exploration and understanding to the residents of Virginia regarding important art being created today. Through high standards, diverse exhibits that change regularly and intentional educational programming, the MOCA is working hard to balance its four primary directives: gallery exhibitions, studio art classes, educational outreach and outdoor art shows. Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art showcases the best in today’s artists’ work, on an international, national and regional level. From painting and sculpture to glass, video and more, the exhibitions are engaging and offer the some of the area’s finest high art.

Ferry Plantation

Another National Historic Site, Ferry Plantation House was built in 1830 and is a three-story Federal-style home constructed by repurposed brick that came from the remains of a courthouse destroyed by fire. Built entirely by slave labor, this house and museum are another fantastic look into the checkered past of early America, when slavery was still legal and common — and responsible for some of the country’s most enduring construction.

No matter what you and your family like to do on vacation, Virginia Beach has a house or museum that will ignite and satisfy your curiosity — should you need a break from those spectacular beaches.

Main Photo Credit: Bill Barber from Flickr’s Creative Commons

Erica Taylor is a blogger who loves to explore unusual, off-the-beaten-track places wherever she travels. Museums are one of her favorite places to discover hidden gems that have been tucked away.

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