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.
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, money 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.
We haven't been standing still since we opened in 2008. Here's a list of some of our recent or current projects:
Nelson County Historical Society Board of Trustees in 2016
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.