A tournament lance? Part of Fairfax County’s history? Well, yes, it’s one of more than 6,000 items in the Fairfax County Park Authority’s Historic Object Collection, which preserves material culture that is representative of Fairfax County’s heritage.
The lance, it turns out, is not from King Arthur’s time but from the early 20th century, when jousting was again a popular sport. In a combination of equestrian skill and athleticism, riders galloped their horses and attempted to thrust their lances through a small ring. These club-like tournaments were the inspiration for “catching the ring” on the later evolutions of carousels.
The Historic Object Collection encompasses many items from the 18th through 20th centuries associated with the early history of sites that are now parks and with the families who lived and worked at these sites. It also contains objects representing the general history, growth and development of Fairfax County and its individual communities. These items are exhibited at parks and at special community exhibits.
The Park Authority maintains a collection of archival materials that are important to researching the history of the sites. More than 4,000 archival items document site histories and ownership and record through photographs, maps, letters and other documents the agency’s restoration of historic structures.
The two collections support interpretive programs at historic sites and in exhibits. They help visitors enjoy, understand and appreciate Fairfax County’s heritage and historic resources. The Park Authority follows the highest professional museum standards of stewardship in protecting and maintaining this important legacy.
Some Historic Object Collections are exhibited on site, such as 18th-century objects owned by Richard Bland Lee, Northern Virginia’s first congressman and the original owner of Sully.
The Haight family lived at Sully during the mid-19th century, and a top hat, said to be purchased by Jacob Haight for Abraham Lincoln’s first inauguration, is part of the collection and occasionally on display at Sully.
At Colvin Run Mill, photographs of the Millard family, the miller’s desk, mill receipts and grain sacks, a family bible, and an apron belonging to Emma Millard represent objects associated with the mill. The collection contains early photographs of Green Spring and documents relating to prior owners. Original photographs, documents, family letters and accounts pertain to other historic structures and sites.
Some collection objects relate less to a specific site and more to the history of the county. A sampling of objects from the early 20th century Colvin Run community includes a log cabin quilt, a biscuit block, blacksmith and milling tools, and a broom machine used by a blind man.
The collection also contains objects from community organizations, such as memorabilia from local Grange meetings and hymnals from Frying Pan Spring Meeting House. Civil War era maps, engravings and artifacts are reminders of wartime events that occurred across Fairfax County.
The Park Authority shares objects from its Historic and Archaeological Collections monthly in our artiFACTS blog. For inquiries about the Historic Object Collection, contact the Museum Collections Manager at 703-631-1429.