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The day before my family reunion, we visited the Shenendoah Valley Museum of Winchester, a complex with a Civil War Site, a full floor of exhibits, and the Glen Burnie House and Gardens, all for a single ticket price of $10. The day was beastly hot, so we stayed inside the entire time.

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The museum is very well laid out,  and had many videos. If you can read along the bottom of this screen, they covered how the war came to the valley, about the divided loyalties, the movement of troops and taking of homes;  and the fiery end. (Not all the videos were about the war.)  The battle changed position- Confederates are winning- Union is winning, 72 times, a terrible, fractious period. As we close in on Memorial Day weekend, it kind of makes you give pause about how much life was lost to mature this country into the United States of America, the beacon of the free world. More people died in the Civil War than all of the subsequent wars combined.

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And, as we think about the free world, just how free are we? Blacks had to carry documents from state to state describing themselves (no pictures), and carry the signature of those who freed them, to become citizens. And, we think our forefathers had religious freedom as well?  Think again. The colonies were governed by their strong affiliation to the Church of England and its rules. In Winchester, the powers that be decided to permit other religions to build churches,  hoping it would encourage settlers. And it did. Eventually, the “undesirable” people of different faiths turned into stalwart, good citizens, successful farmers and business people with good values, so they allowed them to flourish.  That idea spread as well as people moved west.

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The fertile valley is vast and follows the Shenandoah River, community upon community. Corn, wheat and rye were the major crops at one time. Winchester holds the honor of having the first rye harvesting machine,  shown with great fanfare to all who gathered above.

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An interesting poster from World War II.

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The museum has two major collections;  one is a group of miniatures built over a period of 20 years by one man. They are exquisite representations of grand mansions with each room authentically rendered.  The picture above gives you an idea. A strong resemblance to giant dollhouses. One was about four feet tall with 25 rooms.

Their painting collection changes, but is a permanent gallery in the museum.  The exhibit of French Impressionists was being removed and a new exhibit was just being loaded in,  so the gallery was closed to us.

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A temporary display called Moveable Feasts was stuff brought from the Glen Burnie House which is also closed for renovation. Burnie was wildly rich and loved to entertain. People said he invented brunch, but brunch was first mentioned in writing in 1895. Burnie’s picture is in the background.

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A glimpse into the frivolous lives of the ostentatious rich.

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They used 11 different sets of China.

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We can be grateful for the rich because we can appreciate their wonderful material goods, but I wouldn’t trade lifestyles with the Queen of England.

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Beautiful wood in this highly polished sideboard.

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Poor tinkers left their mark.  I like museums and always look for things I’ve never seen before. A Tramp Art bottle for holding poison qualifies.

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As does a steel plate from Victorian times, with the family coat of arms  built into the back of a fireplace.

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Cookie cutters made to last.

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I loved this pitcher.

There was much more of high quality exhibits. Passing through Winchester?  Be sure and stop by.

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