The Columns

Lee Chapel & Museum at Washington and Lee Opens New Exhibition, Renovates Other Features

— by on September 18th, 2008

Washington and Lee University’s Lee Chapel & Museum opened a new exhibition, “Martha Custis Washington: The Indispensable Woman,” on Sept. 12. It includes objects associated with George Washington and the Custis family, on loan from The Mount Vernon Ladies Association. The small changing exhibition runs through May 17, 2009.

Martha Dandridge Custis Washington (1731-1802), a member of the Virginia gentry, made two extraordinary marriages that defined her social status and future opportunities. Through them, she became the linchpin of the Custis, Washington and Lee families, all of whom influenced the politics and economy of colonial Virginia and the formation of a new republic.

Widowhood after her marriage to Daniel Parke Custis gave Martha economic and personal independence. Marriage to George Washington brought momentous historic events that molded her life in unique ways. The first of the First Ladies, Martha Washington set the standard for that new position and became a national icon.

Also on view in the Lee Chapel & Museum is “Not Unmindful of the Future: Educating to Build and Rebuild a Nation,” which opened in October 2007. It traces the history of American higher education through the evolution of Washington and Lee University. The exhibition highlights the contributions made by George Washington and Robert E. Lee to education nationally and at W&LL. Personal objects associated with Lee and Washington also are on display. The office of Lee, president of Washington College from 1865 to 1870, is open as well.

The renovated museum shop is now open. It includes a wide selection of books and other merchandise. The museum also contains new text panels about the Washington, Custis and Lee family connections, Lee’s death and the Valentine statue, “The Recumbent Lee.”

The museum is open daily to the public, free of charge. For hours of operation and information on upcoming events, call (540) 458-8768 or visit www.leechapel.wlu, which contains a new Web exhibition on Lee’s office.