Deep within the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society’s Heritage Museum in Dayton looms an exhibit that stands out in the 14,000-square-foot establishment already showered with appeal.
The room showcases colorful illustrations and artifacts: 20th-century newspaper clippings, photographs and other items, which any local history buff could appreciate.
Dubbed “The Apple in Rockingham,” the exhibit shares the history of local orchards, following the evolution from seed to cider.
The concept sprang forth in September when museum Executive Director Penny Imeson joined forces with a representative from Showalter Orchard, both of whom were floating the idea of doing something big to celebrate Cider Week in November.
Combining the popularity of apples in the Shenandoah Valley with available space within the museum, the historical society — along with its volunteers — created an apple display, which required a bushel of teamwork and strategy.
James Madison University graduate Matt Kennedy, who has been a museum volunteer since last summer, played an integral role in the exhibit’s creation.
“Penny came to me and asked if I wanted to work on the project,” recalled the history major. “I went ahead and started doing research on local orchards, read books and I talked to two people who worked on orchards.”
After nearly three months of research, writing, phone calls, and construction, the exhibit opened up to the public Nov. 19, in the midst of Cider Week.
“This [exhibit] tells a bit of history that not as many people are familiar with,” explains Imeson, who has served as museum director for the last two years. “There used to be huge [apple] orchards all over the area and when you drove on [U.S.] 33, but they aren’t there anymore and most people probably don’t realize those orchards existed.”
The goal of the exhibit is returning those forgotten orchards to their once-enjoyed spotlight by focusing on their histories, purposes and prestige.
Orchards on display include Ryan, Burkholder, Probst — now known as Showalter — and Turkey Knob, to name a few.
The exhibit houses a collection of memorabilia, including a nearly 200-year-old wooden cider press, which shows its years but still serves its purpose. Accompanied by a description of how the device works, visitors may view the manual cider production process used in the 19th century.
Pinned to the walls are photographs that have been enlarged and reproduced, featuring local area orchards, and, nestled in the center of the exhibit, is a glass case filed with apple peelers, apple dolls and old books focusing on the fruit’s history.
“[The] apple is paramount to our culture,” explains Kennedy. “After all, our ancestors grew up drinking cider. This [exhibit] is a great way for people to connect with that past.”
“I think there’s a lot of nostalgia that people will enjoy,” she said. “This exhibit is filled with good, factual information as well.”
The Heritage Museum is open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and 1-5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit heritagecenter.com.
'Contact Matt Gonzales at (540) 574-6265 or firstname.lastname@example.org.