Reflecting Along the Journey

November 16, 2017

Dear College Community,

There are many gems on the Davis & Elkins College campus, but few compare to The Stirrup Gallery. On my very first tour of campus, I was amazed and very pleasantly surprised to have a high quality museum as a part of D&E.

Named in honor of past Chair of the Board of Trustees and proud alumnus Paul Stirrup and his wife, Karen, The Stirrup Gallery has something for everyone. Step back a mere 2.6 million years and observe Pleistocene Era fossils, including an unbelievably large tooth of a wooly mammoth that you can hold, but requires both hands because of its size and weight. Move ahead a mere couple of million years and enjoy Native American artifacts dating from 100 B.C. to about 1900 A.D. They include effigies, pottery, glass beads, iron axes, smoking pipes, tomahawks and arrowheads to name a few.

The Hosea M. Darby Collection, one of nine collections at The Stirrup Gallery, contains more than 10,000 items ranging from the Stone Age to the early 20th Century. Mr. Darby, a successful architect and builder in Elkins, donated his home and the Darby Collection to the College in 1943. As you look around this incredible gallery, you encounter 18th century spinning wheels, looms and furniture, as well as an 1860 hand-cranked sewing machine and sausage stuffer ... just in case you are in the market for one.

For those who appreciate military history, check out the black powder rifles and pistols, including some from the Battle of Little Big Horn as well as various battles of both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Curators from the Smithsonian Institution and Colonial Williamsburg have identified The Stirrup Gallery's collections of powder horns as among the top five in the United States. Some of these 300-plus intricately engraved powder horns date to the 1600s.

I have not even mentioned the Foster Collection of pottery from Cyprus dating from 1200-50 B.C., nor the 400 Roman coins from Emperor Trajan's reign making it one of the top 20 collections in the U.S., and more and more.

The Gallery's curator, Mark Lanham, is a retired U.S. Marine who is passionate about his work and whose knowledge about these thousands of objects is impressive. A proud D&E alumnus, Mark is often seen providing tours to Gallery visitors, sometimes in his powdered wig and colonial clothing to lend authenticity to the historical experience. He is equally engaging to young children as to senior citizens.

Tour buses and school buses can be seen frequently parked outside Myles Center for the Arts, where The Stirrup Gallery is located. Some of the visitors are local groups or individuals, but often those from across the country and international visitors are found walking through time at The Stirrup Gallery. The gallery is open to the public 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and evenings and weekends by appointment. Admission is free.

Education is at the core of Davis & Elkins College. The Stirrup Gallery is an exceptional addition to the classrooms and other venues where learning happens on this campus. If you have yet to experience all that this unique museum has to offer, stop by soon and seek out Mark for a tour.

The journey continues....

Chris A. Wood
President Chris A. Wood
Davis & Elkins College