Bringing history online

Published 7:34 pm Wednesday, April 15, 2020

By Tracy Agnew

Staff Writer


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Like museums throughout the country, the Isle of Wight County Museum has taken to Facebook Live and other web tools to continue its public presence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But most museums throughout the country probably don’t have the chance to feature topics as diverse as the history of feed sacks, a historic smokehouse, a surviving Army air-defense post from the Cold War, the sinking of the Titanic and more.

“This is a wonderful way for us to continue our mission of education,” Isle of Wight County Museum Director Jennifer England said in a phone interview Monday. 

England said the videos have been getting hundreds of views on Facebook Live and remain on the museum’s Facebook page for people to watch later, as well. People who watch live have the chance to comment with questions that might get answered, and some have even emailed questions ahead of time, England said.

Museum Curator Tracey Neikirk has been touring different parts of the Windsor Castle, including the kitchen and an upcoming smokehouse tour.

Other tours include a look at Nike Park, one of the Cold War’s few surviving Army air-defense posts, with local historian Albert Burckard; a tour of Ivy Hill Cemetery with Kathy Mountjoy; and a program — previously planned as an in-person program — on the 108th anniversary on the sinking of the Titanic and its connection to Smithfield.

England said she is excited people have taken to the virtual tours so well.

“We’re very excited this is working,” England said. She hopes more people are able to learn about the museum and its work through these livestreams so that when social distancing restrictions are over, they can come support the museum in person.

“We’re having a really busy time working on some exhibit improvements and getting a lot of things done, but we miss our public,” she said.

Below is the schedule for the week that began April 13. All videos are viewable after the fact on the Isle of Wight County Museum’s Facebook page.


12:30 p.m. — The 108th Anniversary of the Sinking of the Titanic and its Connection to Smithfield

In this virtual lecture, you’ll discover the tragic history behind the RMS Titanic, the British passenger line that sank in the North Atlantic Ocean in 1912 after striking an iceberg on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City. You will also learn about the connection between the Titanic and Smithfield. 

2 p.m. — Ivy Hill Cemetery

This virtual walking tour with tour guide Kathy Mountjoy will discuss the symbols and artwork of gravestones and markers as well as one of the cemetery’s more notable burials: American structural engineer Hardy Cross (1885-1959).



LIVE at 12:05 — Feed Sacks: Their History and Use

Join Museum Curator Tracey Neikirk for a discussion of use, re-use and chickens. 



2 p.m. — Windsor Castle Smokehouse

A guided tour inside the smokehouse with Museum Curator Tracey Neikirk. Learn about hams, shoulders and sides. Too bad this one isn’t smell-o-vision!



2 p.m. — Nike Park

Virtually visit one of the Cold War’s few surviving Army Air-Defense Posts. Local historian Albert Burckard hosts a short presentation and a walking tour of this site, which contains the original barracks, mess hall, administration and recreation building, officer/non-commissioned officer family housing, fueling area and underground missile magazines.