STORY OF REVOLUTION UNFOLDS AT YORKTOWN VICTORY CENTER
YORKTOWN, Va. – America’s evolution from colonial status to nationhood is chronicled at the Yorktown Victory Center through a unique blend of thematic exhibits and outdoor living history that emphasizes the experiences of ordinary men and women during the American Revolution. The state-operated museum of the American Revolution is an excellent starting point for a tour of Yorktown, where the climactic military campaign of the war for independence took place in the fall of 1781.
Just inside the museum exhibition building, the Declaration of Independence is featured as a radical document that inspired decisive action and attracted international attention. Among objects on exhibit is a rare early broadside printing of the Declaration dating to July 1776, before a handwritten copy on parchment was signed by members of Congress.
Ten people who lived during the Revolutionary era tell their stories in the Witnesses to Revolution Gallery. Characterized by life-size cast figures, graphics and artifacts representative of their lives, the witnesses include two African-American slaves who supported opposite sides, a Mohawk chief who struggled to remain neutral, and a Virginia plantation owner loyal to Britain. Two Continental Army soldiers are featured. The war on the frontier is recounted through the words of a woman taken captive and adopted by the Seneca tribe prior to the Revolution. Three more witnesses describe the impact of the war on the homefront.
Photomurals along a ramp connecting the “Witnesses” exhibits to the Converging on Yorktown Gallery trace events leading from the Declaration of Independence to the American victory at Yorktown.
The Converging on Yorktown Gallery illustrates the movement of British troops from the south and American and French forces from the north into Virginia in 1781 and describes the three-week siege at Yorktown that resulted in British capitulation and ensured American independence. Highlighting a display of maps, documents, paintings and weapons relating to the Yorktown campaign is a pair of pistols once owned by the Marquis de Lafayette, the renowned French nobleman who fought for the American cause during the Revolution and was present at Yorktown. The diversity of people and nationalities involved in the conflict at Yorktown is portrayed with artifacts representing American, French, British and German forces. A representative “witness” from each group is profiled.
The witnesses theme continues in an evocative 18-minute film, “A Time of Revolution,” shown every half-hour in the museum’s Richard S. Reynolds Foundation Theater. Set in an encampment at night during the Siege of Yorktown, the film dramatizes the musings and recollections of an array of individuals.
The fascinating story of ships lost or scuttled in the York River during the siege is told in “Yorktown’s Sunken Fleet.” A re-creation of the bow portion of the excavation site of the British supply ship Betsy, the most extensively studied of the wrecks, is the centerpiece of the exhibit. Artifacts removed from the ship are exhibited along with a detailed scale model, and a video program shows how the Betsy was excavated.
“The Legacy of Yorktown: Virginia Beckons” examines how people from many different cultures, those in Virginia before the 1607 founding of Jamestown and those who arrived later, shaped a new society. This exhibition focuses on individuals and groups who came to Virginia over a 200-year period beginning in 1607 and incorporates the theme of creating a new nation through development of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. In an adjacent children’s discovery area, youngsters can try on 18th-century-style clothing.
Outdoors at a re-created Continental Army encampment, historical interpreters describe and depict the daily life of a regiment of soldiers during the last year of the war, presenting demonstrations of musket and artillery firing, 18th-century surgical and medical practices, and the role of the quartermaster in managing troop supplies. Visitors can explore the soldiers’ tents and try on a military coat, and are sometimes recruited to participate in drills with wooden muskets or serve on an artillery crew.
The Yorktown Victory Center’s outdoor re-created 1780s farm completes a museum visit. Here, in a setting that includes a tobacco barn, dwelling, log kitchen, crop field and vegetable and herb garden, historical interpreters show how the majority of Virginians lived during the nation’s formative years. Visitors can learn how herbs were used for cooking and medicinal purposes, and may be invited to weed or water the garden, help make cornbread, comb cotton and “break” flax.
Visitors can expect to spend two or more hours at the Yorktown Victory Center. Additional time should be allowed for the Yorktown Visitor Center and Battlefield, administered by the National Park Service. The Yorktown Victory Center is located at the intersection of Route 1020 and the Colonial Parkway (from I-64, take Exit 247), and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily year-round, until 6 p.m. July 15 through August 15. The museum is closed Christmas and New Year’s days.
2013 admission is $9.75 for adults and $5.50 for children ages 6 through 12. A value-priced combination ticket and an annual pass are available with Jamestown Settlement, a museum of 17th-century Virginia. Parking is free at both museums.
Near the Yorktown Victory Center gift shop, offering a selection of books, prints, artifact reproductions, educational toys and games, jewelry and mementos, is a snack and beverage vending area with patio seating.
The Yorktown Victory Center and Jamestown Settlement are administered by the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, an agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia that is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.
Work is now under way on transforming the Yorktown Victory Center into the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. The project, expected to be complete by late 2016, includes an 80,000-square-foot structure that will encompass expanded exhibition galleries, classrooms and support functions, and reorganization of the 22-acre site. The Yorktown Victory Center will remain in operation throughout construction.
For more information, call (888) 593-4682 toll-free or (757) 253-4838, or visit www.historyisfun.org.
Media Contacts: Debby Padgett, (757) 253-4175
Tracy Perkins, (757) 253-4114
Susan Bak, (757) 253-4138