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‘Across the Commonwealth and beyond’: Waynesboro celebrates VMNH mobile exhibit

Rebecca Barnabi
An exhibit is viewable in the mobile trailer of the Virginia Museum of Natural History in the parking lot on Arch Avenue. Photo by Rebecca J. Barnabi.

A long journey began to show results Friday with a ribbon cutting on Arch Avenue in downtown Waynesboro for a mobile representation of the upcoming branch of the Virginia Museum of Natural History.

“We love nothing more than a good ribbon cutting,” said Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Courtney Thompson.

A mobile trailer allows VMNH to “bring the experience to Waynesboro to give us a little exciting taste of what was to come.”

According to Thompson, after the chamber heard about the VMNH’s plans for a Waynesboro branch, a letter of support was sent to the governor’s office.

“Waynesboro is really having a moment right now with all of the great announcements lately,” Thompson said.

Waynesboro City Council member Terry Short said city council and Mayor Lana Williams appreciate the museum for its support of the River City.

“How excited as a council and as a community we are about this remarkable investment that will transform our community,” Short said.

For all of the investments lately in Waynesboro, Short said the investment in the VMNH branch is different, because it is for all Virginians, not just Waynesboro residents.

“This is a facility that will bring children, community members and families all

An exhibit is viewable in the mobile trailer of the Virginia Museum of Natural History in the parking lot on Arch Avenue. Photo by Rebecca J. Barnabi.

to experience all that the Valley has to offer and all that Waynesboro as a partner in this can bring in terms of community enthusiasm and support for families and education,” Short said.

However, projects like the museum branch are a puzzle, because they are fun and complicated to work out.

“We are so close and it’s so wonderful to be able to have an asset that we can touch and feel and see, and know that the day is coming,” Short said of the mobile museum trailer.

Thompson said that the VMNH could have chosen to build a branch anywhere in Virginia.

“But, they chose Waynesboro,” she said. “That is exciting. We love that.”

Waynesboro Executive Director of Economic Development and Tourism Greg Hitchin said another ribbon cutting will be held in a year at which time shovels will actually be put in the ground at the corner of Arch Avenue and Main Street to mark the permanent site of the museum branch.

Hitchin said that today’s ribbon cutting comes after a 10-year journey which began with the Martinsville museum’s charter including a goal to get its collections into the Virginia communities it serves.

Sen. Emmett Hanger is credited with working at the General Assembly level to bring the museum to Waynesboro.

Newly elected Chris Head, who grew up in Georgia, said he often visited nearby Afton as a child.

“What’s exciting to me is to be able to be a part of the next thing that will continue to carry this forward and introduce people from all over the country to what we have to offer here in this part of the world, because it’s unique, it’s beautiful, it’s exciting,” Head said Friday afternoon.

He said today’s ribbon cutting was an honor for him as his first ribbon cutting as a local Senator.

“It’s just thrilling to be a part of things here,” Head said of Waynesboro, and to share “God’s great gift to all of us in this region.”

VMNH Executive Director Joe Keiper said bringing a branch to Waynesboro has been a team effort, but community voice is still important. He encourages the Waynesboro community to continue to let legislators know that bringing the VMNH branch to the River City is what the community wants.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.