Permanent Exhibits at Salem Museum

The following exhibits are permanently on display. Other exhibits are temporary and change from time to time. Click here for our Feature Exhibits.

Through Their Eyes: The Moments That Made Salem


Our newest Gallery highlights sixteen major events, dating back to 1671, that have shaped Salem and the Roanoke Valley into the community it is today. History gets personal as seen ‘through the eyes’ of men and women who lived here at the time. Visitors experience the emotional, life-changing impact of each of these events—including the coming of the railroad, the end of the Civil War, desegregation, the Flood of ’85, and so many more. The Gallery features personal narratives, pictures, maps, artifacts, hands-on elements, and augmented reality technology accessible with a visitor’s smart phone.

“The Gallery is really special because it gives us a chance to put a face to history,” said Alex Burke, the Museum’s assistant director and chief exhibit designer, “Often, events that happened a long time ago are hard to really grasp, because it’s hard to imagine what life was like for those people. By having a character chronicle each event, visitors experience the feelings and significance associated with these moments, truly bringing these events alive.”

Major funding for Through Their Eyes was provided by Community Catalyst Funds of Community Foundation Serving Western Virginia, and the National Endowment for the Humanities Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan (SHARP) Initiative. The augmented reality segments were developed in partnership with the Applied Research in Immersive Environments and Simulations program at Virginia Tech.

Virginia Indians, European Settlers, and Colonial Heroes–William Fleming and Andrew Lewis
Our valley was populated by Virginia Indians long before European settlers arrived. On display are artifacts found by archaeologists at Tutelo Town on the banks of the Roanoke River. Europeans would settle the Virginia frontier a century later. The exhibit includes the stories of two colonial heroes from the region, General Andrew Lewis and his friend and doctor, William Fleming. See Fleming’s officer’s sword on display. Salem was founded in 1802, and the first lot was bought by a woman, Susanna Cole.

Storm Clouds on the Horizon: Salem and the Civil War
This exhibit chronicles the surprisingly active role Salem and Roanoke County played in the War,  the impact of the War on the folks at home, and how the War has been remembered through the years.

The Brown House Parlor
The Williams-Brown House is the heart of the Salem Museum. The parlor is furnished with late Victorian antiques original to the house during the Brown family’s residence in the 1800s.

The Fashion Dolls of Pete Ballard
West Virginia artist and fashion historian Pete Ballard created these lovely ladies especially for the Salem Museum, to highlight women’s fashions in the 1800s and early 1900s.

History in Oak Frames: The Courthouse Portraits of 1910 
A local judge commissioned the creation of a collection of portraits of notable local citizens for the Roanoke County Courthouse which was dedicated in 1910.

A Winning Tradition: Salem’s Champions Gallery. 
Salem began its championship run in 1916, and continues through today. This gallery highlights the history of our schools and sports complexes, and the stories of Salem’s many Champions in athletics, academics, the arts, and civic and professional life. Exhibits showcase Salem students and residents who have been recognized with a first place win at the state level or above. The technological centerpiece of the gallery is the Champions’ Kiosk providing visitors with an interactive, searchable record of all of Salem’s Champions, with pictures and text to permanently record their stories.

From Small Town to “Biggs” City: The Hometown Art of Walter Biggs
The best known artist from the Roanoke Valley was famed illustrator and Salem native Walter Biggs. His work graced many a national magazine, advertisement, and book, and his local scenes are especially prized today in his hometown. Appreciating the Art of Walter Biggs: a Conversation with artist Eric Fitzpatrick: Watch the video.

Salem’s Attic: Amazing Artifacts from our Archive
An exhibit of some of the really cool and unusual objects from the Salem Museum collection.

Lakeside! Sixty Summers of Ups and Downs
In the hot summer of 1920, a mammoth swimming pool named Lakeside opened just east of Salem. Soon the resort added a Thriller (roller coaster), Twirl-Around (Ferris wheel), and other rides until Lakeside became the destination for summer fun in western Virginia. From 1968 until the park’s demise in the mid-80s, the centerpiece of Lakeside was the Shooting Star, a wooden roller coaster that at the time was the fastest in the world. Photographs, souvenirs, a scale model of the Shooting Star, and a million fond memories tell the exhilarating history of Lakeside’s sixty summers.

The Brand Collection: Aboriginal Artifacts from across the Globe

A collection of exotic pieces from ancient cultures, reflecting the travels of the late Cabell and Shirley Brand across Africa, South America, and Indonesia. Some pieces are thought to date back to the 700s.


  • Sun - Mon: Closed
    Tue - Sat: 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM

  • Sun - Mon: Closed
    Tue - Sat: 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM

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