The well-received exhibit at The Heritage Museum entitled "Bernhart & Company: Shenandoah Valley Folk Art Fraktur (1774-1850)" brought together over seventy treasured decorative certificates celebrating births and baptisms, marriages and house blessings, and other significant family events in the lives of the early German and Swiss settlers. The primary focus of the exhibit is the work of the prolific Rockingham County fraktur artist, Peter Bernhart, but also features other fraktur artists working in the region. With pen, paper, and ink, these individual and unassociated folk artists produced fraktur beginning in the mid-eighteenth century and continuing almost seventy-five years, until the death of the German language in the Western Shenandoah Valley. The tradition of verifying life events with colorful, and often whimsical, paper certificates created an unseen Shenandoah Valley heritage which is explored in the exhibit.
This exhibit catalogue is of special interest to genealogists, art historians, collectors, and those with an interest in local history. Genealogists will research local family connections aided by the translation provided for each fraktur. Art historians will delight at the unique motifs, colors, and artistic style of Virginia Backcountry folk art. Collectors will appreciate the depth and variety of the local specimens, some of which have been made public for the first time. Historians will discover the unexplored story of the cultural history of the early German-speaking settlers who were drawn to the fertile Shenandoah Valley, the Colonial frontier of Virginia. And everyone will have an enduring record of thjis unique fraktur collection.
"Bernhart & Company" is a welcome addition to the understanding of southern fraktur - a field of study that is now steadily advancing. . . . the "Bernhart & Company" exhibit offers a preview to this previously understudied, but vastly important, element of the fraktur tradition." - Russell and Corinne Earnest.