Isle of Wight County Museum

Isle of Wight County Museum

103 Main Street, Smithfield, Va.     757-356-1223 10 am-4 pm Mon-Sat & Noon-4 pm Sunday

The Isle of Wight County Museum was founded in 1976 by a group of volunteers dedicated to the preservation of county history. Interpreting local history, the museum’s exhibits include prehistoric fossils, a turn-of-the-century country store, displays regarding the ham industry and perhaps the museum’s most notable artifact: the world’s oldest, edible cured ham.

The World’s Oldest Ham!
P.D. Gwaltney Jr.’s famous pet ham currently resides at the Isle of Wight County Museum. In 1902, a cured ham was overlooked, and for 20 years, the ham hung from a rafter in one of his packing houses. By 1924, the pet ham was kept in an iron safe which was opened daily for guests to view. Advertised as the world’s oldest Smithfield ham, Gwaltney fashioned a brass collar for the ham and took it to shows and expos to exhibit the preservative powers of his smoking method. The ham was featured in Ripley’s “Believe It Or Not” in 1929, 1932 and 2003.

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2017 Events

Jan. 19. Tell Me a Story. 10 a.m. This program, geared for children ages 3 to 5, introduces youngsters to the symbols of Isle of Wight and features books, songs and games. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Theme: Penguins.

 Jan. 28. Mackie’s Mill Lecture. 1:30 p.m. This lecture will commemorate the 236th anniversary of the American Revolution’s Mackie’s Mill engagement, the Jan. 16, 1781, skirmish between local militia and Benedict Arnold’s forces.

February 1-28. Share Your Stories with Us: African-American History Month. February is a month to learn, honor and celebrate the achievements of black men and women throughout history. In Isle of Wight County, individuals have made their mark in industry, agriculture, public service, education, sports and more. This month, share your stories with us. Email, call or visit to drop off photos, memories and documents to help the museum share this important element of our county’s history. Visit our website to learn more: www.historicisleofwight.com/february-is-black-history-month.html.

Feb. 16. Tell Me a Story. 10 a.m. This program, geared for children ages 3 to 5, introduces youngsters to the symbols of Isle of Wight and features books, songs and games. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Theme: Dental Health.

March 4. Museum Dance Off. 10-11 a.m. The museum is in need of dancers for a dance video production. Join us for this fun event. Dance is fun, and museums are fun, so dancing at a museum is super-mega-fun! (Why are we dancing? See www.whenyouworkatamuseum.com. Also, no actual dance skills are required.)

March 4. Battle of Smithfield Walking Tour. 2 p.m. Meet a Union soldier at the museum for a lecture and a walk down Church Street as he details his experiences in this battle.

March 16. Tell Me a Story. 10 a.m. This program, geared for children ages 3 to 5, introduces youngsters to the symbols of Isle of Wight and features books, songs and games. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Theme: Kites.

April 20. Tell Me a Story. 10 a.m. This program, geared for children ages 3 to 5, introduces youngsters to the symbols of Isle of Wight and features books, songs and games. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Theme: Bunnies.

April 29. Then the World’s Mine Oyster: The History of Oystering in Hampton Roads. 11 a.m. An old myth specifies the best time to eat oysters is during months that contain an R. Naturally, the same rule must apply to a presentation about the history of oystering in Hampton Roads. Heather North, VA Oyster Restoration Specialist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, is the pearl in this lecture. She will share some history as well as information about oyster populations and oyster gardening seminars.

May 7. What’s in a Name?: The Story of the Cocke Family. 2 p.m. Historic Cocke’s Lane in downtown Smithfield has an interesting history. Stuart and Bonnie Resor will present a lecture on this wealthy family and its storied past including Lt. William Cocke’s fateful mission to the Caribbean and John Hartwell Cocke who served as Thomas Jefferson’s architect for the University of Virginia.

May 18. Tell Me a Story. 10 a.m. This program, geared for children ages 3 to 5, introduces youngsters to the symbols of Isle of Wight and features books, songs and games. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Theme: Flowers.

May 27. Why Did the Chicken Come to the Museum? 11 a.m. May is National Egg Month, so this is the perfect time to talk about the history of chickens and chicken keeping. A member of Peninsula Chicken Keepers, or PeCK, and a special guest chicken will host this over-easy lecture. If you miss this event, the yolk’s on you.

June 3. Battle of Smithfield Walking Tour. 2 p.m. Meet a Union soldier at the museum for a lecture and a walk down Church Street as he details his experiences in this battle.

June 10. Walking Tour Along Church Street. 10:30 a.m. Join us as we stroll down Church Street to explore the history of this fascinating area.

July 8. The Pet Ham’s 115th Birthday. 10:30-Noon. The world’s oldest ham turns 115. 115 is the atomic number of Moscovium, and it is the fire service emergency number in Italy. More importantly, 115 is a good excuse for cake. Join us in this annual tribute to the birthday boy, and help us launch our annual Pan Ham contest. Also here to help us celebrate will be the Blackwater Regional Library’s Library 2 Go Bookmobile. Visit them outside for some additional hammy activities!

Aug. 5. Battle of Smithfield Walking Tour. 2 p.m. Meet a Union soldier at the museum for a lecture and a walk down Church Street as he details his experiences in this battle.

Aug. 26. Scott’s Factory/Logan’s Mill Tour. 1:30 p.m. This American Industrial Revolution era site was not only the largest 19th century manufactory in Isle of Wight County but was also the location of military skirmishes in both the American Revolution and the Civil War. Tour begins at the Isle of Wight County Museum. Guests will follow in their own vehicles to the nearby sites. Carpooling encouraged. Wear comfortable walking shoes.

Sept. 9. Walking Tour Along Church Street. 10:30 a.m. Join us as we stroll down Church Street to explore the history of this fascinating area.

Sept. 10. In Reserve: The Navy in Isle of Wight County. 2 p.m. Join us for a lecture on the history of the James River Reserve Fleet, also referred to as the Ghost Fleet. This is the story of the anchorage of the National Defense Reserve Fleet located on the James River at Fort Eustis. It is the oldest of the original eight fleet sites and currently one of three still in operation.

Sept. 21. Tell Me a Story. 10 a.m. This program, geared for children ages 3 to 5, introduces youngsters to the symbols of Isle of Wight and features books, songs and games. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Theme: Pigs.

Oct. 7. Battle of Smithfield Walking Tour. 2 p.m. Meet a Union soldier at the museum for a lecture and a walk down Church Street as he details his experiences in this battle.

Oct. 14. World War I and World War II: Conversations and Commemoration. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. To commemorate the events of both world wars and their impact on Isle of Wight County, this event will honor local veterans and feature lectures, living historians, stories, military vehicles, document preservation and the Virginia World War I and World War II Commemoration Commission’s Profiles of Honor Tour.

Oct. 16-20. Homeschool Week. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Smithfield and Isle of Wight County’s historic sites welcome homeschoolers of all ages with a selection of fun and engaging activities that highlight the history of Virginia and the area.

Oct. 19. Tell Me a Story. 10 a.m. This program, geared for children ages 3 to 5, introduces youngsters to the symbols of Isle of Wight and features books, songs and games. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Theme: Pumpkins.

Nov. 4. Reflecting on Vietnam. 11 a.m. As the nation commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, the museum will host speaker Al Coke who will give a brief synopsis of the war and its origins, detail its legacy, discuss some of the misconceptions concerning service in Vietnam. He will share some of his experiences from his 1967-1968 and 1969-1970 tours.

Nov. 16. Tell Me a Story. 10 a.m. This program, geared for children ages 3 to 5, introduces youngsters to the symbols of Isle of Wight and features books, songs and games. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Theme: Thanksgiving.

Nov. 19. A Vital Connection: The James River Bridge. 2 p.m. Opened November 17, 1928, the James River Bridge has linked Warwick-Newport News to Isle of Wight County for 88 years. This look-back examines life before the bridge, when colonial ferries and steamers served this purpose. The historical journey continues with dedication of the original crossing and construction of the present one.

Nov. 22. Happy Birthday, Benjamin Huger! 12:30 p.m. Join us for this lecture about the life of Benjamin Huger, the career U.S. Army ordnance officer who fought with distinction during the Mexican-American War and served as a Confederate general during the Civil War. Isle of Wight County’s Fort Huger is named for him.

Dec. 14. Tell Me a Story. 10 a.m. This program, geared for children ages 3 to 5, introduces youngsters to the symbols of Isle of Wight and features books, songs and games. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Theme: Gingerbread.

 Dec. 16. Visions of Sugarplums: Tea with St. Nick. Noon-2 p.m. Visit the jolly ol’ elf and enjoy an afternoon of holiday refreshments, crafts and activities. Perfect for families! Pre-registration for visits with St. Nick are suggested.

NOTE: All events are subject to cancellation as well as date, time and admission changes.

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