The Edith Bolling Wilson Birthplace Foundation and Museum celebrated the ten year anniversary of the museum’s opening on October 15, 2018, the 146th anniversary of Mrs. Wilson’s birth.
Over the past decade, the museum has shared the story of Edith Bolling (Galt) Wilson’s childhood home and her contributions to our country. Mrs. Wilson (1872-1961), the second wife of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and the 24th First Lady of the United States, served from 1915-1921, marrying the President in December 1915. After President Wilson's stroke, Mrs. Wilson screened the matters of state brought to the ailing president; thus, making her position controversial and helping to inspire the 25th Amendment. The museum counts itself among other First Ladies' Sites and Women’s History Sites; however, it remains the only birthplace museum of a First Lady in Virginia.
The commemoration of this milestone provided a chance for the organization to look back at its accomplishments over the past decade and its work as a public charity. Soon after its opening in 2008, the museum hired its first director and with the co-founders and a small organizing board began offering tours of the pre-renovated birthplace. In 2010, the foundation announced a new board of trustees with Bill Smith, the principal for Smith Enterprises, leading as the original museum chairman. He stated at that time his hope and desire that the museum remains “a strong historical resource and lead[s] us further in becoming a national destination, bringing the importance of Mrs. Wilson’s story to greater public awareness.” This vision, upheld by the current museum staff and Board, remains the same.
Since the museum's opening in 2008, the organization has served over 20,000 visitors - visiting from each of the fifty states and around the world. This year, the museum expects to serve over 5,000 patrons through its tours, school programs, Girl Scout visits, and community outreach events.
The museum's small collection of about three-hundred artifacts, mostly acquired through the tireless work of Farron Smith, relates to Virginia’s prominent Bolling Family. However, in recent years, visitors to the museum have become interested in what happened in Mrs. Wilson’s later years - her becoming the female owner of Galt & Brother Jewelers, serving as First Lady during World War I, and her role as a “steward” of the presidency after President Wilson’s stroke. Through these topics, museum exhibitions, and other interpretive content, we are able to relay Mrs. Wilson's story to our audience in order to educate and inspire them to be leaders like Edith was: fearless, determined, and persistent.
In 2018, the museum also saw marketable organizational growth, including the completion of a federally-funded Museum Assessment Program that provided direction and recommendations for the museum's future growth. Additionally, the museum has revitalized and expanded the Board of Trustees into a working board with an active committee structure which supports an active executive director, visitor services staff, and an education coordinator. The board, who governs the museum, consists of a diverse and international representation of community members, museum professionals, scholars, and those with business acumen. The museum staff and Board continue with the important undertaking of a future strategic planning process, updating exhibits, planning for historic preservation projects, and expanding educational programming. This work provides a pivotal moment for the museum as it positions itself in the future as a historic site of national significance and in telling the relevant and impactful story of Edith Bolling Wilson.
The museum and its dedicated team of staff, Trustees, and Founders want to thank you, our supporters, friends, and community for your enthusiastic support over the past ten years. We look forward to your involvement in the organization as we look to the future.
This article appears in the special 10th Anniversary edition of the museum's newsletter. Read the whole issue here.
CURRENT HOURS: open for walk-in tours Thursdays and Fridays, 10am-2pm. If you need a tour outside of those hours, please email or call ahead.
Call: (276) 223-3484
145 E. Main St., Wytheville, VA 24382
The museum is located in the heart of historic downtown Wytheville.
There is no admission fee to visit the museum or tour the birthplace home; however, donations are greatly appreciated!
Groups of 10 or more, please call ahead for arrangements.