Ferrum College’s Blue Ridge Institute & Museum highlights folk life


For more than 30 years, Ferrum College’s Blue Ridge Institute & Museum has documented the folk ways of the people living in and around the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Through gallery exhibits, Blue Ridge Farm Museum, Blue Ridge Folklife Festival, Blue Ridge Heritage Archive, BRI Recordings series and outreach programming, Blue Ridge Institute promotes a special understanding of regional folk life.

The Blue Ridge Farm Museum showcases typical agricultural skills from the early 19th century.

As the official state center for Blue Ridge folklore and the easternmost major venue on Virginia’s Crooked Road Music Trail in Ferrum, the Blue Ridge Institute shares unique journey from 1800 mountain farming to modern customs, crafts and music. It showcases some of Virginia’s lesser-known heritage — not presidents and Civil War battlefields, but ballad singing, oxen driving and moonshining.

Blue Ridge gallery exhibits are self-guided, and groups need not make reservations if they just want to peek around. Reservations are required for group programs and visits to the Blue Ridge Farm Museum, with admission varying by program, tour types and hands-on activities.

Catered meals and/or refreshments can be provided at the institute; or visitors can have lunch or dinner at Forum College’s dining hall.

“Two things really make us stand out, but it’s a challenge to get visitors to understand it in print,” said Vaughan Webb, the museum’s assistant director.

“The first standout is that we focus upon folkways and traditional life, not history per se. We’re the only museum in the state with the specific mission to present regional folk culture.”

The second standout is a package that combines the past and the present with a visit to museum galleries and the living-history farm.

“That’s what makes us special and different, whether it’s for a group or a single visitor,” Webb said.

Costumed interpreters can be found on the grounds of the Blue Ridge Farm Museum.

When groups step on the grounds of Blue Ridge Farm Museum, they enter the world of a Virginian German family building a successful mountain farmstead in the early 1800s.

Several different tours are available.

Costumed interpreters lead the 1½-hour 1800 Farm Life Tour. The Cornbread Tour combines the Farm Life Tour with a hands-on session of butter churning and baking on the open hearth, and is an add-on best suited to small groups.

Another offering for small groups, A Day on the Farm, gives visitors the chance to dress in the institute’s period costumes and spend the day open-hearth cooking, animal driving, gardening and learning other old-fashioned skills.

The Jack Tales Tour combines the Farm Life Tour with a performance of music and Appalachian folktales by Ferrum College’s Jack Tale Players.

Ferrum College also offers productions through its on-campus Blue Ridge Dinner Theater.

Blue Ridge Institute & Museum of Ferrum College
(540) 365-4416


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