Loudoun history buffs long have bemoaned the fact that the county’s numerous cultural assets go virtually unnoticed by area residents. Among those frequently cited as an underappreciated jewel is Dodona Manor, the Leesburg home of Gen. George C. Marshall.
The staff there has developed a creative outreach that can serve as a model for other area house museums and historic sites: If they won’t come for a tour, take the tour to them.
For the George C. Marshall International Center, the story of the World War II general and U.S. secretary is too powerful to be overlooked. While his contributions are well known to residents in Europe because of his role in rebuilding war-torn communities, many in Loudoun—where the general regularly walked the neighborhood streets—are unaware of his legacy or the leadership lessons his life offered.
By taking information to students as an in-classroom field trip, the staff and volunteers at the Marshall House are accomplishing their key goal of sharing his story, but also are generating new interest in the historic property as well.
That’s a program that can be employed by other Loudoun heritage sites as well. Potentially, it is a good way to generate interest in the financially threatened Loudoun Museum and its extensive, but largely unseen, collection of historic items. The life lessons of Gov. Westmoreland Davis also are exportable from his Morven Park estate near Leesburg. There are organizations that could achieve benefits from such outreach.
As the school system has looked for budgetary belt-tightening, it is the non-essential items that are the first to face cuts. Field trips have been on that list for years. That deprives students of more than just a day away from their classroom desks; they are missing out on important community connections.
There is merit—for both the school system and the stewards of the county’s historic sites—in building on the Marshall House’s model.