About Oakland Museum


The mission of Oakland is to promote greater awareness of the county's history and to educate adults and children about the connections between the county's history and that of the state of Virginia and the nation.

History of the Museum

In 2003, the Nelson County Museum of Rural History was formed and, the next year, the Nelson County Historical Society purchased the ten-acre property on which the museum is now located. Soon after that, the museum organization became "Oakland - The Nelson County Museum of History." The Society not only owned the Oakland property but worked closely with the Board of Trustees of the Museum in developing the museum. Starting in 2015, the Nelson County Historical Society and Oakland Museum are no longer be separate organizations, for we have merged!

(Read more about the history of the house, a former residence and tavern that was built in 1838 and is listed with both the National Register of Historic Places and Virginia's Historical Landmarks.)

The development of Oakland Museum officially began when the museum hired Hill Studio Architects to help the board envision the museum and to draw up plans for renovation and restoration. There followed an enormous amount of work on the property, including the restoration of the tavern room on the lower level; new wiring, heating and cooling; installation of a bathroom and kitchenette; creation of a safer entrance; many repairs; and the construction of a driveway and parking lot. At the same time, Parking Lot Constructionmoney was being raised to pay for this work. Major funding for the renovation, restoration and driveway projects was awarded through grants from Virginia foundations, with large amounts from private donors.

The museum also began to film oral histories and sponsor special programs, many of which were related to the two major exhibits that were eventually created—one on rural electrification in the late 1930s and the other on the 1969 disaster in the wake of Hurricane Camille. Finally, on August 17, 2008, the museum held its "grand opening." Each of these exhibits required substantial additional fund-raising. Oakland has also sponsored, through a grant from the Smyth Foundation, the activities of a group of public school teachers who developed a curriculum and activities for the exhibits at Oakland tied to the Virginia Standards of Learning for the fourth and eighth grades.

In the meantime, the Nelson County Historical Society and the Oakland Museum Board had also been raising funds to pay off the mortgage on the property—a milestone that was joyfully celebrated in the fall of 2009.

The museum today

We haven't been standing still since we opened in 2008. Here's a list of some of our recent or current projects:

  • We have been sponsoring numerous programs and events. More»
  • We have initiated the Nelson Music Project, which is focusing on the rich musical heritage of the county. More»
  • We are partnering with the Millennium Group, a predominantly African-American organization, on an oral history project and exhibit on the integration of the county's public schools at the Nelson Heritage Center.
  • We have upgraded the Camille exhibit and added a new exhibit on the history of schools in Nelson County. More»
  • We have made a number of improvements to the property.
  • We are looking toward the next big steps for the Nelson County Historical Society and Oakland Museum. More below»

Nelson County Historical Society Board of Trustees in 2016

  • President: Robert Carter
  • Vice President: Robert Goad III
  • Secretary: Woody Greenberg
  • Treasurer: Beth Goodwin
  • Jean Brent
  • Bill Brent
  • Jack Buni
  • Anke Goetz
  • Debbie Harvey
  • Becky Howard
  • Helen Kimble
  • Brady Nicks
  • Leigh Thompson
  • Dick Whitehead
  • David Wooldridge

Future plans

Click image to see larger, full version.

From the outset, the trustees of the Oakland Museum have realized the need to expand the museum beyond the building where it is now housed. With ten acres of land, there are many possibilities for expansion. One set of possibilities is shown in the plan on the right. Since this drawing was made, however, our vision for the property has evolved, so that the ultimate development won't be as pictured. Nevertheless, it does give some idea of the scope of the future plans.

Copyright © 2005-2016 Nelson County Historical Society

Updated 10 August 2016.