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Coming soon to Urbanna:  ‘Museum in the Streets’

Ellen Whitmore reads some of the Museum in the Streets plaques during Saturday’s dedication, which was part of the Urbanna Founders’ Day Celebration. (Photo by Tom Chillemi)

The Town of Urbanna is the first town south of the Mason-Dixon line to participate in the Museum in the Streets (MITS) program. A brief reception was held at the September 2 Urbanna Founders’ Day Celebration at the Urbanna Museum and Visitor’s Center to introduce the signs and the program to the community.

Patrick Cardon of Cushing, Maine, is founder and director of Museum in the Streets, an international program designed to promote history, heritage, tourism and economic development of small towns in the Untied States and in Europe. Cardon started the program in 1996.

Fourteen museum-quality historical signs are going to be placed in different locations throughout Urbanna with a large map/directory sign positioned near Bristow’s Store on Cross Street. The directory sign is the start of the historical walking/driving tour. A brochure is being designed that will inform visitors where signs and sites are located.

The signs are emblazoned with historical photos and several paragraphs of historical text. They are intended to educate the public on what specific historical events happened in a building, on a street or on the water decades or so ago.

MITS also is designed to foster a modest form of heritage tourism. “It’s good politically, educationally and commercially,” said Cardon. “We hope people will linger, look around, learn about your town, and visit local businesses.”

The signs take people back in time to days when Urbanna was an international tobacco port-of-call; an oyster/seafood center; the home of the Urbanna semi-pro baseball team; a steamboat stop; and much more. Signs will be located on Cross, Prince George, Watling, and Virginia streets, and on Rappahannock and Grace avenues.    

Former Urbanna resident Bob Calves and a group of investors helped finance the program with a $9,000 grant. The total cost of the project was $16,500 with the Town of Urbanna picking up the $7,500 difference. “We want to express our thanks to Bob and his investors who showed confidence in our town to arrange for a grant to assist us with the MITS program,” said Urbanna Mayor Steve Hollberg.

“A lot of handwork went into this program and we want to thank the many volunteers who shared their old photos and wrote and helped with the editing and content of the text,” said Hollberg.

Larry Chowning of Urbanna wrote the text and, along with the help of town citizens, found appropriate historical photos. Chowning also worked with Cardon, who had his design team in Maine create the Urbanna signs.

The signs will be located on some public properties but some individual landowners have given the town permission for some signs to be placed on their private property. “We are very grateful to the landowners who have given us permission to place the signs on their property,” said Mayor Hollberg. “We feel the program is going present a positive reflection of our town and will be of benefit to the entire community.”

The metal poles holding the signs were made by Atlantic Metal Products Inc. in Topping. The poles are presently in Williamsburg being treated and painted. It is hoped the signs will be installed in the coming weeks, said Hollberg.

posted 09.06.2017

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