Featured Exhibit

This exhibit changes several times a year.

Bernhart & Company - Valley Fraktur Folk Art

More than seventy works of fraktur artists practicing in the Central Shenandoah Valley of Virginia from 1750 to 1850 commemorate the cultural history of the early German farm families who used these decorative folk art designs and calligraphy to celebrate birth and baptisms, marriages, house blessings and other significant events. Valley fraktur is the continuation of a tradition brought from the Old Country by the German settlers.

This exhibition, at the Heritage Museum at Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society, is made possible by the participation of local Rockingham County families who permitted digital reproductions of their own family certificates which they preserved for more than 200 years. Although most of the works are in private collections, the exhibit has been enhanced with related mages in the collection of museums and libraries

The most significant form of early American folk art is the fraktur, a hand-drawn and decorated paper created by artists for the German immigrants. The term “fraktur” is from the Latin, meaning to fragment or break, referring to the stand alone Gothic characters in the calligraphy. The designs are similar to the folk art of the Pennsylvania Germans who brought the tradition from Europe.

The exhibit focuses upon the most prolific local artist who lived in the Rockingham County, Peter Bernhart. Bernhart was a mail carrier and part-time school teacher. At least thirty of the works are Bernhart creations, signed by him, demonstrating not only his unique style of bright colors and amusing plants, but also a key to the families who were living in the Central Valley at the time.

See the Programs webpage for programs about this exhibit.



The exhibit is dedicated to Professor John G. Stewart of James Madison University.