The Isle of Wight Museum turns 40

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Forty years passes so fast. It’s a bit hard to believe it was that long ago when a group of local history lovers opened the Isle of Wight Museum in what has been known historically as the gambling house, located next door to the Smithfield Inn.

And yet it was 1976 — not coincidentally, the nation’s 200th anniversary.

Many of the people most responsible for founding the museum are no longer among us. They include the museum’s primary early donor, Gurley A. Barlow Jr,. and William (Billy) Yeoman. Both men’s artifact collections have done much to make the museum one of Virginia’s finest local exhibits.

The museum quickly outgrew its gambling house home and fell heir to the former Bank of Smithfield after that institution completed construction of a new home that was actually in the works when the museum initially opened.

Barlow was a collector of rural artifacts for which he had an insatiable appetite. What individually often seemed to be small, even innocuous items in his collection, when taken as a whole, formed a virtual inventory of an early 20th century country store, complete with shelving and counters. Added to those items was the post office box and window system that had been the Carrollton Post Office for decades.

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