Leaders of the Loudoun Farm Heritage Museum in Sterling will gather Sunday to formally dedicate its new one-room schoolhouse display in memory of Su Webb. The museum president died in October.
Bill Harrison, a museum founder who has stepped back into the president’s role, said the “Miss Su’s Schoolhouse” exhibit uses old materials and period furnishings to replicate a 1908 schoolhouse.
“We have the desks, at which one or two students would sit, the cursive letters, a period portrait of President Woodrow Wilson, a map case, McGuffey’s Readers, a wood stove and the bell—we’ve got the works,” Harrison said.
A schoolhouse had been one of the original exhibits proposed when the farm museum was incorporated in 1998, but by the time it opened in 2003 that item had been dropped.
Museum visitors today learn about the barter system. “The kids go to the hen house and take the eggs to the Country Store where they see what they can barter them for,” Harrison said. The addition of the schoolhouse is aimed at expanding lessons on the county’s history.
Harrison, along with Terry Sharrer, a former Smithsonian Institution Curator of Health Sciences, was instrumental in the founding of the museum.
“When I came here [in 1963], there were 26,000 people in what was an agricultural county,” Harrison said. More than 30 years later, he remembers thinking, “If our generation doesn’t do something to preserve it, more than 250 years of agricultural history will have been lost.”
It was a cause that Webb, a passionate supporter of preserving the county’s history, signed on to. She joined the farm museum’s board of directors in about 2004, then succeeded Harrison as president when he stepped down nine years ago.
Webb was indefatigable in her efforts to preserve the county’s history—including its farming knowledge. “She’d promote it everywhere,” Harrison said, noting Webb was working as a volunteer on an almost daily basis at the museum at the time of her death last year.
The repository of the county’s agricultural history still has room for more. “We have a mural that details its history from Native Americans to horses and grapes, but there’s an open space—that’s reserved for the next 50 years,” Harrison said.
The farm museum serves between 17,000 and 18,000 visitors per year, and Harrison estimated it would reach close to 20,000 this year.
“With social media, we’re now pulling in visitors from abroad also,” he said.
Sunday’s dedication ceremony is planned for 4 p.m. The museum is located at 21668 Heritage Farm Lane in Sterling.