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Bringing History to Life

Historical Evidence Basis for Re-creations Used to Interpret Early 17th-Century Virginia, Revolutionary War Period

James Fort building, at the Jamestown Settlement.Clothing worn by historical interpreters at Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, the implements they use, and the settings in which they work are all based on information gleaned from 17th- and 18th-century documents, objects and images and archaeological research. At the museums’ tailor shops, historical clothing pieces, including doublets, breeches, waistcoats, bodices, stays, skirts, shirts, caps, leggings and mantles, are custom-made of wool, cotton, silk, linen and leather. Extant period clothing, contemporary illustrations and written accounts provide sources for construction details, patterns and choice of fabrics. Clothing and accessories are carefully researched to represent the cultures, time periods and occupations depicted at Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.

Visitors can get a sense of what it’s like to wear garments of centuries past by trying on 17th-century-style armor at Jamestown Settlement’s re-created 1610-14 fort and regimental coats at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown’s Continental Army encampment.

Working matchlock and flintlock muskets and artillery pieces, tools, cooking utensils, navigational instruments and furniture are faithful copies of 17th- and 18th-century originals. While many of these objects are obtained from outside sources, skilled work performed in the museums’ living-history areas – blacksmithing, carpentry, needlework, flint-knapping, weaving plant fibers into baskets and pouches, and producing dugout canoes – provides visitors an opportunity to learn about pre-industrial technology and produces many of the objects used there.

Jamestown Settlement

Jamestown Settlement ship, the Susan Constant.A Paspahegh site found archaeologically a few miles from Jamestown in the 1990s serves as the model for Jamestown Settlement’s Powhatan Indian village. Five full-size buildings, made of sapling frames covered with reed mats, were re-created from the site, which dates to the early 17th century and is depicted in entirety in a scale model inside the museum galleries.

Architectural designs for the Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery, replicas of the three ships that brought America’s first permanent colonists to Virginia in 1607, were based on the historically documented tonnages, or cargo capacities, of the original vessels and extensive research of 17th-century ships.

Buildings in the Jamestown Settlement fort, which reflects the business enterprise and military character of Jamestown during the years 1610 to 1614, are based on documentary research and archaeological findings at several early 17th-century Virginia sites. Two buildings, one interpreted as a storehouse and another representing the colonial governor’s quarters, are patterned on evidence found by Preservation Virginia archaeologists at Historic Jamestowne, the original settlement site. Colonist William Strachey’s description of the Jamestown fort in 1610 is the basis for the triangular palisade encircling the fort and for the size and interior furnishings of a building representing an Anglican church.

American Revolution Museum at Yorktown

The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown encampment kitchen
Its layout and features drawn from General von Steuben’s 1779 “Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States,” the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown’s encampment represents a portion of an American regiment. The setting includes soldiers’ tents, officers’ quarters, and an earthen “kitchen” for one company. There are several regimental features – quarters for a colonel, surgeon and quartermaster – as well as an area with makeshift shelters representing quarters for family members who followed the army.

Structures and interpretive programs at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown’s farm evoke the world of the 18th-century family of Edward Moss (c. 1757-c. 1786), whose life is well-documented in York County, Virginia, records. The setting includes a farmhouse, buildings interpreted as a kitchen, dwelling for enslaved people and tobacco barn; and orchard, crop field and kitchen garden.