Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Crab Orchard Museum Gallery

The museum gallery tour is self-guiding and begins with an interpretive display of Native American artifacts. Most of what is known about this period comes from archaeological sources, although the Spanish explorer de Soto encountered the Chisca tribe in 1542. The Chisca, who later were absorbed by the Shawnee, lived in present day east Tennessee and southwest Virginia.

Other than the Spanish explorers, the longhunters were probably the first Europeans to visit southwest Virginia. Dr. Thomas Walker passed through the region around 1750 during his explorations that took him to east Tennessee and Kentucky. As southwest Virginia was settled, the area became home to longhunters who farmed during the growing season and hunted from October until late March or early April. Long hunting was a dangerous trade, for the hunters spent months deep in Indian territory, far from any other Europeans. Here is a closer view of some of the tools of their trade.

There is a display of Revolutionary War artifacts, along with the following information:

The Birth of a County display documents settlement in the area, the end of conflict with the Indians, and the development of institutions both social and political. Note the device for preparing flax on the right and the school desk immediately behind it. The fine table on the left denotes a transition from a rough frontier existence, as well.

More tools of pioneer homesteads.

The U.S. Civil War began in 1861. The State of Virginia was one of eleven states to form the Confederate States of America, but the far western counties seceded from the Confederacy to form the State of West Virginia, which was admitted to the Union in 1863. Tazwell County, which remained in Virginia, became a border with the Union and McDowell County, West Virginia.

Following the Civil War there was rapid industrialization in the U.S. and that industrialization was fueled by coal.

Above are some of the tools of coal mining when it was done largely by hand labor. The chest augers to drill holes for blasting are now museum pieces, as are the carbide lamps to light a miner's way.

Coal remains an important industry in southwest Virginia and in West Virginia. But it faces increasing controversy. Modern surface mining technologies allow for the extraction of coal from beds previously thought out of reach, but also produce environmental impacts on an unprecedented scale. Among the most damaging is what is called mountain-top removal, where large amounts of overburden are removed and dumped into valley heads in what is called head-of-hollow fills. These practices are receiving fierce opposition, as well as a battle of bumper stickers throughout the region.

Tomorrow we will continue the tour outside.

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