NORFOLK SOUTHERN CHALLENGE
June 2012: Read an update about our progress.
In 2007, an independent museum consulting group noted that while the Museum has a world-class collection, our interpretation focuses more on our equipment than on people's experiences, and that our building has significant deficiencies that impact the visitor experience.
C. W. Moorman, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Norfolk Southern Corporation, agreed, and subsequently offered the Virginia Museum of Transportation a $1 million Challenge Match toward improved infrastructure and the development of new exhibits to really tell Roanoke’s story of outstanding achievement in the glory days of steam.
The Museum is now in the midst of a planning process to prepare for the challenge of our upcoming capital campaign. The Museum has never had an opportunity like this before, and we are determined to make the most of it. Our lead project consultant is William L. Withuhn, Curator Emeritus in the Division of Work and Industry at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. He is widely considered to be the nation’s leading transportation exhibits producer and is very familiar with the Museum: its strengths, weaknesses, audiences, and great potential.
An essential part of this process has been listening to the community, learning what is important to our visitors and discovering the preferences and dreams of the people we serve. Over 1,000 individuals shared their opinions and suggestions, and these have been taken seriously and incorporated into the Museum's plan.
Also, we have began to seek out new content through our Power of Our Stories oral history project in partnership with the Roanoke City Public Library. Interns from Virginia Tech, Radford University and Roanoke College have helped us collect the stories of the people who worked in transportation, who at some time embarked on a life-altering journey or who welcomed a loved one home, or who experienced the world through the availability of goods that commerce made possible. These stories will form the basis for new exhibits, enabling the community to guide the Museum’s growth and development and to forge personal connections to the past that will be preserved and presented here.
Through this Challenge opportunity, the Museum aims to grow our annual attendance--both local and non-local--provide enjoyable family experiences, support educators in making our history come alive, and restore a sense of pride in every Roanoke area resident--from train-loving toddlers, to retirees with fond memories of the days of steam, and everyone in between.