Fairfax County Park Authority Museum Collections
About Fairfax County Museum Collections
In support of its mission to protect and maintain the county’s heritage, the Fairfax County Park Authority collects and preserves the material culture that represents our heritage from prehistory to present day. In addition to the original structures and archaeological materials at its historic parks, the Park Authority collects objects, documents and other materials:
Associated with the history of Fairfax County
Associated with the early history of county park sites
Associated with the families who lived and worked at these sites
Associated with individual communities
Representing the general history, growth and development of Fairfax County
These materials support interpretation at Park Authority historic sites and in outreach exhibits, promoting the enjoyment, understanding and appreciation of Fairfax County material heritage and historic resources by its citizens and visitors.
Museum Quality Care The Park Authority follows museum practices and professional standards of stewardship in caring for and preserving its Historic Object Collections and maintaining them as a legacy for future generations.
The Park Authority defines stewardship as the careful, responsible and sustainable management of the natural, cultural and historic resources entrusted to the Park Authority by the citizens of Fairfax County for present and future generations.
The Museum Collections Section is a vital component of the accreditation process. Colvin Run Mill, Sully Historic Site and Green Spring Gardens were accredited by the American Association of Museums in 2000.
Some selected highlights:
A pair of 18th century American heartback mahogany side chairs, made in Philadelphia and original to Sully
A 19th century desk on frame, used by the miller at Colvin Run Mill
A log cabin quilt made in Fairfax County
A coiled straw basket with lid, attributed to African-Americans living at Fruitvale Plantation near Chantilly
A broom machine made and used by a man from the Colvin Run community
Quilts, coverlets and clothing dating from the 19th and early 20th centuries
Civil War-era maps, engravings, and artifacts from Fairfax County
Handwritten accounts from the Machen family farm at Walney
The Carlotta Gonzales and Richard Lahey Collection of furniture and folk art
Memorabilia from the local Grange organization
Grain sacks from the 19th and 20th centuries
The Henry Moffett Collection of blacksmith and wheelwright tools, circa 1900-1950
Collections of 19th century grist milling, cobbler and woodworking tools
Archives and Special CollectionsArchives Collection
Over four thousand archival items - photographs, maps, letters and other documents - support interpretation of site history, document the period of Park Authority ownership and restoration of historic structures, and preserve the history of site ownership. Similar materials illustrate the early history of Fairfax County communities like Floris, Centreville and Bailey’s Crossroads.
The Charles Newlon Collection of photographs of Centreville, Virginia
Oral history transcripts describing daily life in Fairfax County from the early to middle 20th century
Documentation files for the African-American community at Sully, circa 1746-1850
The Park Authority welcomes donations of objects, documents and other materials that meet the criteria above. Finite space and stewardship resources may play a role in making the best decision for acceptance of offered materials
Donated objects and historic items help support exhibits, research and interpretation at Park Authority historic sites and outreach displays. They promote the enjoyment, understanding and appreciation of Fairfax County material heritage and historic resources by its citizens and visitors.
Park Authority staff members are happy to talk with you about acquiring materials associated with park sites and Fairfax County history. If you have historic materials you would like to donate to the Park Authority, please email the Collections Manager or call 703-631-1429.
Access to either the Historic Object Collection or the Archives Collection for research purposes may be arranged. Send email to the Collections Manager or call 703-631-1429.
Volunteering and Intership Opportunities
Help is always needed in Collections! Volunteers assist behind the scenes with annual inventory, installation of special exhibits, and researching, cataloging, cleaning and storing historic artifacts. Collections Management volunteers receive special training in handling and moving museum objects. If you are detail-oriented and enjoy working with antiques and historic objects, send email to the Collections Manager or call 703-631-1429.
The Fairfax County Park Authority is proud of its ability and opportunity to provide a variety of intern programs for individuals seeking on-the-job experience in all aspects of Park Authority operations. Read More about Intern Opportunities with the Fairfax County Park Authority. Museum collections internships are part of the Resource Management Division.
Caring For Family Treasures
Ten things you can do to protect your family treasures at home
- Document your treasures. Take photographs of them and create a family treasures album. Keep a record of family members who owned them, how and when they were first acquired, where they were used, and any other interesting information about each object's history.
- Inspect your family treasures regularly. Look for signs of recent damage, pests, dirt, or deterioration. If you encounter extensive pest infestation, discuss concerns for your heirlooms with a professional exterminator.
- Handle your treasures gently. Wash your hands to remove any harmful oils naturally occurring in your skin before handling and lift pieces carefully from their most stable point. Avoid placing fragile objects where they might easily be bumped by people walking by or opening a door or window.
- Keep temperature settings constant. Stable temperature and humidity conditions in your home that are comfortable for you are generally acceptable for most family treasures too. To stay on the safe side, avoid storing them in the attic or basement or displaying them near doors and windows that are frequently opened and closed. Leave the fan in the "ON" position on your home temperature gauges: keeping the air circulating will help balance and stabilize temperature and humidity levels throughout your home. These steps will help avoid harmful temperature extremes, sudden changes in humidity, and development of mold and mildew.
- Protect your treasures from light damage. Light can cause colors to fade, wood to bleach, and fibers to become brittle - all ultimately hastening deterioration. Avoid placing objects in direct light, close blinds or drapes, and turn off lights when no one is using a room. Change the placement of objects around a room from time to time. Reproduce family photos and store the originals.
- Protect your treasures from air pollution. Avoid placing objects over a fireplace, wood stove or in a room frequented by smokers and clean chimneys and stovepipes regularly. Soot and smoke can disfigure objects, dulling original colors and brightness, darkening surfaces and coating them with an overall stain.
- Mount your treasures for display safely and securely. Have them mounted and framed professionally using quality acid-free materials. Avoid using commercial tapes, glues, and metal clips and pins. Distribute the weight of large pieces like quilts across the entire surface to reduce stress on one area. Check hooks and wires on frames periodically to ensure they are secure.
- Keep your treasures clean. Regularly dust objects with a magnetic cloth or soft artist's brush or gently vacuum with clean brush attachment on low suction. Dust can soil, abrade or attract pests. Always wash antique textiles by hand, not in the machine. Avoid using household detergents, cleaning and waxing supplies. Remember: "The best treatment is the least treatment." Consult a professional for advice on cleaning and repairs.
- Use acid-free materials to store your treasures. Avoid using plastic bags, commercial tapes, glues and pins. Unfold and lay paper and textile items flat. Large objects such as quilts can be gently folded, padding folds to prevent creasing, or rolled with acid-free padding. Stuff clothing items such as christening gowns, wedding dresses and shoes with acid-free tissue to maintain their shape. Store fragile pieces in single layers or else avoid placing heavier items on top of them.
- Insure your treasures, especially objects having considerable monetary value, such as jewelry, furniture and artwork.
Following these guidelines will help make your treasures last through the years, to be enjoyed and shared with other family members. As part of your legacy when you are ready to pass your heirlooms on to children and grandchildren, pass along these guidelines too.
Got a question about the care and preservation of a family treasure? Email the Collections Manager or call 703-631-1429 for help or direction to appropriate resources.
Object Care and Conservation Resource Links:
The Fairfax County Park Authority provides access to its Museum Collections for educational and research purposes in support of its mission to preserve and interpret its historic resources and to encourage their enjoyment, understanding and appreciation by the public. These exhibits represent only a small portion of our collections.
Fairfax County Park Authority collections may be seen in exhibits at our historic sites and properties:
Images and Reproductions
Individuals may commonly use Park Authority images for limited non-commercial personal or educational use, or for fair use as defined in the United States copyright laws. The credit line: "Fairfax County Park Authority Historic Collections" must be included. Images may not be otherwise reproduced by any means without express written permission of the Park Authority.
Contact the Collections Management office at 703-631-1429 for permission to reproduce an image, to view the collection or for more information.
The Fairfax County Park Authority’s Museum Collections are home to:
than 5,000 museum objects (chairs, quilts, baskets,
Thousands of archival items (photographs, maps, letters and other documents)
Upwards of three million artifacts (archaeological discoveries such as spear points, pottery)
They are the stories of Fairfax County.
Visit artiFACTS for select highlights in the collections.