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Virginia: Unstuffy museums are packed with great stuff

Courtesy Science Museum of West Virginia

From fine arts to science, Virginia’s museums provide a distinctive backdrop for planners who want to give guests a memorable experience.

Consider the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester. James Wood, Winchester’s founder, originally owned the property. His son, Robert, built Glen Burnie, the family home, and their descendant, Julian Wood Glass Jr., restored the house as a showcase for his collections.
Glass died in 1992, and per his wishes, the property and gardens were opened to the public in 1997. The Michael Graves-designed museum opened in 2005.

Since the 254-acre property is the last working farm in the city limits, visitors will see cows as well as four museum galleries dedicated to the valley’s history and decorative arts.

The 1,500-square-foot museum reception hall, which has garden views, might host a bank event with a U configuration one day and a doctors’ reception the next. (The facility is near Winchester Medical Center.) The adjoining patio can handle a 60-by-90-foot tent.

The Learning Center seats up to 75 classroom-style, which gets the job done for pharmacy companies that want to educate and entertain doctors during the day. “As an added perk, people attending a function can tour the galleries, before or after an event or on a lunch break,” said Julie Armel, director of marketing.

The garden, which sports a pink pavilion, is a favorite event space.

Located in Richmond’s museum district, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is the repository for more than 20,000 works of art, which are guaranteed to lend an air of refinement to any event.

In the Cochrane Atrium, up to 1,000 people can mingle with sculptures under a four-story ceiling.
Marble Hall, named for its pink marble walls, holds 300 seated and 600 standing. Those who need more space can also book the nearby Evans Court and Cochrane Court.

The museum’s Pauley Center, formerly a home for Confederate women, has been restored to Colonial Revival style. The parlor holds 60 for meals; add the dining room and foyer and the space suits 200-person receptions. A lecture hall, theater and conference rooms are also available.

In Roanoke, communicate your message in front of “bigMouth,” a 7-foot-tall anatomically correct replica of the human mouth. Or, invite guests to chat about the weather in the Weather Gallery.

There’s plenty to talk about at the Science Museum of Western Virginia, which occupies the third and fourth floor of the Center in the Square, where arts organizations, galleries and museums have joined to create a destination.

Both floors can hold up to 700 people for a reception. Companies can do PowerPoint presentations in the 120-seat planetarium and, if they wish, request a show before or after business is done. Can adults play with interactive exhibits? “Oh, yeah!” said Christy Brooks, after-hours event coordinator. “And they do.” Another plus: There is no restriction on caterers.