System - Event Management
November 13, 2021
Time: 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Tour Old Dominion Agricultural Complex (ODAC)
Saturday, November 13  •  2 - 4pm  •  Tour and Lecture
Convene at ODAC’s courtyard entrance Fountain  •  19783 US-29 North, Chatham, VA 24531

Director John Harris opens ODAC for a Tobacco History Tour and a discussion by Gary Grant and a team of local historians, curators, and conservationists. Join us for a tour of the Old Dominion Agricultural Complex (ODAC) to see the Tobacco History Exhibition and a panel featuring Gary Grant and Gale Allen in a discussion on local tobacco legacies.
         The Dan River Region's history and tobacco have been intertwined for more than 250 years, and the collection of Danville’s former National Tobacco-Textile Museum, open to the public from 1975 to 1990, is part of the Dan River Region’s personal story. 
         In 2006, a trio of intrepid artifact “archeologists” began the task of “releasing” the shuttered museum’s vast inventory—bound in shrink-wrap for more than 15 years. Project members included local historian Gary Grant, one of two team veterans of the old museum from 25 years earlier. Surviving artifacts were reassessed first for condition. Next, under the watch of Gale Allen, then a relative newcomer to Danville, each item was reaccessioned digitally. Gale Allen and Gary Grant continue to oversee the vast array of memorabilia, known today as the Tobacco Legacy Collection.
         Many of the significant artifacts they uncovered from the former museum collection reemerged as the nucleus of a major exhibit "Danville and the Culture of Tobacco".  Funded in part by the Virginia Commission for the Arts, the exhibition—curated and launched at the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History (DMFAH)—brought to light pieces not seen since the tobacco museum closed its doors in 1990. Since 2013, visitors to the Olde Dominion Agricultural Complex, near Chatham, have learned about tobacco’s legacy in an ongoing exhibit showcasing choice pieces from the original tobacco museum collection as well as some recycled from the 2007 exhibition inaugurated at the DMFAH. Lining an expansive corridor at the Ag Center, these historic objects, pictures, and photographs, with accompanying texts, help chronicle the colorful history of this region’s Old Belt tobacco rooted in the 400-year culture of tobacco—Virginia’s and America’s first cash crop and export. 
         This guided tour and discussion looks at the Dan River Region tobacco histories over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries when the region gained fame and wealth because of its ever-expanding tobacco market. Now into the 21st century, Danville’s renowned legacy as a tobacco pioneer remains secure—as the birthplace of innovative sales practices such as the “Danville System” of loose leaf tobacco auctions and the “Danville Plan” of allotting sales time on a poundage basis rather than by sales days to individual markets. The moniker “World’s Best Tobacco Market” refers to the enormous amount of tobacco sold in Danville. The initials for this moniker, WBTM, became and remain the call letters of Danville’s first radio station. While Danville served as the primary tobacco market for the region, the market depended on the tobacco farmers in Pittsylvania County, Virginia; Caswell County, North Carolina; and other counties nearby that comprise the so-called Old Belt, famed for producing premium flue-cured Bright Leaf. Tobacco was the leading crop in this area for generations, when Danville came to be regarded as the “Buckle of the Old Belt.”