Two historical objects maintained by the Loudoun Museum and the Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum have been named among Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts for 2021 by the Virginia Association of Museums.
A ledger from the Aldie Mill at the Loudoun Museum and a manure spreader at Sterling’s Heritage Farm Museum both made the list, and could be eligible for a cash prize in conservation funding.
The circa 1831 Aldie Mill ledger from Loudoun Museum in Leesburg contains transactions from what was once the largest gristmill in Loudoun County—notably featuring payments from President James Monroe.
The ledger showcases not only presidential history but also social history. It preserves the names and buying power of many farmers in the area, and notes which wealthy landowners sent enslaved “servants” with payments for their grain.
“The ledger shows us who was involved in the complicated commercial networks developing in this agrarian region, but we also know from this object that Loudoun was already beginning to industrialize in the 1830s,” said Lori Wysong, the museum’s collection manager.
The Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum’s Nokes farm manure spreader was recovered from the historic Nokes family property last April. Owned by the Nokes family more than 100 years, the property was a remarkable example of Black farming in Loudoun County. In fact, the neighborhood was historically called Nokesville in recognition of the family’s presence in the community, and included a church, school and general merchandise store in the early 20th century.
The Nokes manure spreader was manufactured by the New Idea Manure Spreader Company of Coldwater Ohio in the late 1930s, when horses were still the primary source of power on farms across America. This manure spreader was used on the Nokes farm in Sterling for years before being put out to pasture.
The Nokes’s historic farmhouse and other buildings on the property were demolished last summer, leaving few recoverable artifacts. With proper conservation, the manure spreader can be safely moved and interpreted in the Farm Museum’s main gallery, so that every visitor can learn about the Nokes family and the other Black communities in Loudoun County.
The public is encouraged to vote for their favorite endangered artifact online at vamuseums.org from Jan. 18-27. The artifact receiving the most votes will be awarded $2,000 in conservation funding. The Virginia Association of Museums will award an additional $3,000 in funding among the remaining honorees, as determined by its selection committee.
The Virginia Association of Museums Endangered Artifacts program has benefited more than 200 institutions over the past 10 years to date, helping shed light on the importance of Virginia museums and the expenses and professional care needed to preserve historic and cultural items.