#11 O. Winston Link Museum

My name is Jackie Lee and I would like to adopt the O. Winston Link Museum.

The O. Winston Link Museum (Photograph by Jackie Lee)

The O. Winston Link Museum (Photograph by Jackie Lee)

Tell us a bit more about yourself

I live in Dumfriesshire and run my own business Artemis Cultural & Educational Services with my husband Chris Lee which provides a range of services to the museum and heritage sector. We both have different areas of expertise: Chris has over 25 years of experience in museum interpretation and curatorial work, while my expertise lies with education. I particularly like working in the field of costumed interpretation as I feel this gives all ages a good insight into how people lived in the past – and to see how much things have not changed.

Tell us a bit more about your adopted museum
The O. Winston Link Museum is in Roanoke, Virginia, USA in the old railway station. It is run by the Historical Society of Western Virginia. It’s open 10am – 5pm everyday; closed at Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. It’s $5 admission with concessions for senior citizens and children. The Museum is dedicated to the photographer O. Winston Link who captured the last days of steam in 1950s Virginia. He used very inventive techniques to capture the images he wanted. While there are his wonderful photographs of trains he also provides a snapshot, literally, into life in this part of America in the 1950s.

Why have you chosen to adopt this museum?
I discovered this Museum quite by accident when visiting this area last year. It’s not an obvious tourist destination as Roanoke started life as a railway town and while there is no station now, the railway runs right through the centre of the town. We were there for a conference with a day to fill, so being Museum-a-holics discovered it through our desire to find out more about the place. I must admit when I saw it was about a train photographer I thought I’d be out in 10 minutes – I was there for a whole morning! There were about 4 people in the Museum at my time of visiting which is such a shame as this Museum is a real hidden treasure. The photographs themselves are art works given the limited technology available to photographers in the late 1950s. However, the real story is in his images of the life of the people who lived and worked in and around the railway. It’s hard to believe that some of images are from the 50s and not the 1930s! There are also objects and film which bring the whole story to life, plus the reconstructed store that Link shows in one of his photographs.

Why would you recommend people visit?
It’s so interesting. If you want to see lots of things about trains then this is the museum for you. Then again if you’re interested in the development of photographic techniques and the ingenuity of one man, O. Winston Link, in getting the right picture, this is where to come. And then on top of all that there is the unexpected peek into Virginian life in the late 1950s which shows the extreme poverty that still existed. The images stay with you long after your visit The Museum was opened in 2004 and its design is standing up to the test of time remarkably well. The staff – usually one lady in the shop/ticket office – are incredibly enthusiastic about their Museum and when it comes to answering your questions are very knowledgeable. Apart from a film on the life of Link there was no other technology, but that doesn’t matter as the photographs speak for themselves and reveal as you walk round this man’s growing love for the disappearing life he was capturing. They run an education programme too.

How would you sum up your museum in three words?
Haunting; atmospheric; engaging

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