Ralph Stanley Museum Underway in Virginia

The town of Clintwood, Va., has secured a building and is raising funds to create a museum in honor of singer and native son Ralph Stanley . Clintwood, which has a population of 1,500, is the county seat of Dickenson County, where Stanley was born in 1927. Stanley has approved the project and pledged to donate artifacts to it.

Mayor Donald Baker says the museum will be located in the restored home of former state representative John P. Chase. Restoration of the building’s exterior is already underway, but money is not yet in hand, according to Baker, for interior repairs.
Built around 1904, the home served as a boarding house, restaurant and funeral home after the Chase family moved out.

“I’m hoping [funding] comes through the state of Virginia,” Baker says, “through some ARC [Appalachia Regional Commission] funding and community block grant programs.”

Stanley has agreed to cooperate in creating the museum. “We have a contract that has been signed with him,” Baker says. “That was one of the things, I guess, that the state wanted to see before they would become too involved in it. They wanted to see that he was buying into it and that he was going to put some of his articles in there — which he has totally agreed to.”

Baker says the house is large enough — “15 or 16 rooms” — to house such museum-related amenities as a welcome center, meeting rooms for the local historical society and a gift shop.

No curator has been appointed, but Baker says there are plans to hire one. “We are looking for a technical expert, so to speak, a person who can help us with the arrangement of equipment [such as video displays]. In fact, I think we’re about ready to secure a grant to provide funds for that.”

Baker estimates it will take 15 to 18 months to restore and outfit the interior, once funds have been gathered. “I would like to have it done by mid-2004,” he says. “I don’t know whether that’s going to be possible or not. It’s all contingent on money. If you’ve got money, you can do about anything you want to.”

The intended museum is about 10 miles from the community of Stratton, where Stanley and his older brother, Carter, were born. The two performed and recorded as the Stanley Brothers from 1946 until 1966, when Carter died.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.