Yorktown Museum Overview
American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, Replacing Yorktown Victory Center, to Explore Causes, Impact and Meaning of the Revolution
The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, replacing the Yorktown Victory Center, will be among America’s foremost sites that tell the story of the nation’s founding. Through comprehensive indoor exhibits and outdoor living history, the new museum will offer a truly national perspective, conveying a sense of the transformational nature and epic scale of the Revolution and the richness and complexity of the country’s Revolutionary heritage.
A new 80,000-square-foot building opened in March 2015, and work continues on permanent gallery exhibits and a new introductory film. Today visitors can enjoy showings of Revolution-theme films in the 170-seat theater and a glimpse of the future exhibits, as well as a spacious gift shop and a cafe. An indoor illustrated timeline spanning the second half of the 18th century leads to the outdoor re-created Continental Army encampment and Revolution-era farm, located in temporary quarters as construction proceeds on new, expanded settings for these living-history experiences.
The introductory film and 22,000-square-foot exhibition galleries – and the “American Revolution Museum at Yorktown” name – will debut with a preview of the new museum October 15 and 16, 2016, during the annual Yorktown Victory Celebration event marking the anniversary of America’s momentous 1781 Revolutionary War victory at Yorktown. A grand opening celebration from March 23 to April 4, 2017, will officially launch the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.
New Exhibits Will Dazzle, Inform
In the museum theater, “Liberty Fever” will draw visitors into the world of Revolutionary America, setting the stage for indoor gallery and outdoor living-history experiences. The introductory film will be narrated by an early 19th-century storyteller who has traveled the country gathering stories about the American Revolution and shares his accounts using a moving panorama presentation of the time period.
The permanent exhibition galleries will engage visitors in the tumult, drama and promise of the Revolution through period artifacts and immersive environments, dioramas, interactive exhibits and short films. Among close to 500 artifacts on exhibit will be a Declaration of Independence broadside dating to July 1776; a June 1776 Philadelphia printing of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, one of the inspirations for the U.S. Declaration of Independence; a coronation portrait of King George III from the studio of Allan Ramsay; one of the two earliest known portraits done from life of an African who had been enslaved in the 13 original colonies; and an extremely rare early southern American long rifle.
The galleries will present five major themes. The British Empire and America examines the geography, demography, culture and economy of America prior to the Revolution and the political relationship with Britain.
The Changing Relationship – Britain and North America chronicles the growing rift between the American colonies and Britain. Within a full-scale wharf setting, issues of taxation and importation are brought into focus.
Revolution traces the war from the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775 to victory at Yorktown in 1781 and the aftermath. An experiential theater will transport visitors to the Yorktown battlefield with wind, smoke and the thunder of cannon fire. The wartime homefront will be portrayed in three-dimensional settings that provide a backdrop for the stories of diverse Americans – Patriots and Loyalists, women, and enslaved and free African Americans.
The New Nation outlines the challenges faced by the United States in the 1780s – weak government under the Articles of Confederation, the unstable postwar economy and new social tensions – culminating with the creation of the Constitution as a framework for the future.
The American People explores the emergence of a new national identity following the Revolution – influenced by immigration, internal migration, and demographic, political and social changes. This section shows how the nation’s struggle for independence impacted not just America, but the world.
Visitors Interact With Historical Interpreters in Outdoor Settings
The living-history Continental Army encampment and Revolution-era farm continue as an integral part of the museum experience. An informational pavilion will assist visitors with the transition from indoor galleries to the outdoor areas, where they engage in array of hands-on activities, from military drills to watering and weeding crops.
The encampment and farm are undergoing reconstruction and enhancement to support the new gallery storylines and expand capacity for visitor-participatory demonstrations. The encampment, which represents a portion of an American regiment and includes tents for soldiers and officers as well as surgeon’s and quartermaster’s quarters, is adding a drill field and an artillery demonstration area with tiered seating that from the outside looks like a redoubt.
Situated just beyond the encampment, the farm will have a larger house, kitchen and tobacco barn and a new building representing quarters for enslaved people, along with crop fields, corncrib, kitchen garden and orchard. A specific 18th-century York County family has been identified to serve as a frame of reference for historical interpretation.
The outdoor elements of the new museum will be complete in early 2017.
American Revolution Museum at Yorktown Continues a Revolutionary Tradition
Located within the Jamestown-Williamsburg-Yorktown “Historic Triangle” and next to Yorktown National Battlefield, the Yorktown Victory Center opened in 1976 as one of three Virginia visitor centers for the Bicentennial of the American Revolution. The Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, the state agency that operates the Yorktown Victory Center and Jamestown Settlement, implemented structural and exhibit improvements in the 1990s, broadening the museum’s focus to encompass the entire Revolution.
The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown is the realization of a master plan adopted in 2007. The plan called for replacing the 1976 facility, with the new building positioned on the 22-acre site to allow for continued operation throughout construction, and repositioning and reconstructing the encampment and farm. An important feature of the new building is an education center, with five classrooms and a separate entrance, to serve student groups and the general public with dynamic, interactive learning experiences.
Planning, building and exhibit construction, and renovations to the site, including living-history areas, are funded by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Major components of the project total approximately $50 million. Private donations to the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown Campaign for Support are funding elements of gallery and outdoor exhibits, including artifact acquisitions, and educational resources. Leadership donors to the campaign, with gifts and grants of more than $500,000 each, include Dominion Resources; Sue and John Gerdelman; and York County.
To learn more about the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation museums and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, visit www.historyisfun.org.