Jamestown Settlement & American Revolution Museum at Yorktown
‘HANDS-ON’ EXPERIENCES MAKE LEARNING FUN
Jamestown Settlement visitors can steer with a tiller or whipstaff aboard a re-creation of one of the three ships that brought America’s first permanent English colonists to Virginia, try on 17th-century-style armor and play ninepins or quoits at the re-created colonial fort, and grind corn, weave plant fibers into cordage and use oyster shells to shape a dugout canoe at the Powhatan Indian village.
Visitors may be invited to enlist, then join an artillery crew or drill with wooden muskets at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown’s re-created Continental Army encampment, and help water the garden or “break” flax at the Revolution-era farm.
Many of the hands-on activities that individual and family visitors can enjoy daily are incorporated into educational programs for student groups, with topics ranging from “Cultures at Jamestown” to “Colonial Medicine.” Special programs also are offered for home-educated students and their families during a two-week period in September.
‘AMERICAN REVOLUTION MUSEUM AT YORKTOWN’ TELLS A NATIONAL STORY
The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, replacing the Yorktown Victory Center, is among America’s foremost sites that tell the story of the nation’s founding. It was officially launched with a grand opening celebration March 23-April 4, 2017. Through comprehensive indoor exhibits and outdoor living history, the new museum – located adjacent to Yorktown Battlefield where American independence was won – offers 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 museum building opened in March 2015, and an introductory film and expansive exhibition galleries debuted on October 15 and 16, 2016, along with the new museum name. The outdoor living-history Continental Army encampment and Revolution-era farm were completed in Spring 2017 and feature hands-on experiences and demonstrations for visitors each day.
ARTIFACTS ENRICH MUSEUM EXPERIENCE
The Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation’s collection of objects, mainly from the 17th and 18th centuries, has been developed to support exhibit themes at Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.
The Jamestown Settlement galleries provide a setting for one of the most varied collections relating to the nation’s beginnings in 17th-century Virginia. Non-archaeological items, mostly from Europe and Africa, include ceremonial and decorative objects, portraits, maps, books, engravings, furniture, ceramics, glassware, cookware, navigational instruments, apparel, toys, tools, and weapons and military accouterments. Archaeological items from Virginia Indian and 17th-century English colonial sites also are among the more than 500 artifacts exhibited in the galleries.
An array of period military equipment, maps, paintings, engravings, furnishings and personal effects is exhibited in the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown galleries. Included in the collection is 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.
COMMEMORATING AMERICA’S BEGINNINGS
In 1957, Jamestown Settlement opened as a setting for the 350th anniversary of the founding in Virginia of America’s first permanent English colony. The museum developed new facilities, exhibits and programs in time for the 400th anniversary in 2007 of this seminal event in American history. Expansive exhibition galleries, an introductory film and revitalized living-history areas present the story of 17th-century Virginia and its Powhatan Indian, English and west central African cultural origins, drawing on a wealth of historical information revealed by late 20th- and early 21st-century archaeological and documentary research. Jamestown Settlement continues to commemorate the anniversary of Jamestown’s founding with an annual event in May.
Just 20 miles away from where Jamestown was established in 1607, the outcome of the American Revolution was determined at the 1781 Siege of Yorktown. The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown is successor to the Yorktown Victory Center, founded in 1976 in conjunction with the 200th anniversary of America’s Declaration of Independence. The museum holds a “Liberty Celebration” event every July 4 and participates in an annual townwide celebration in October of the momentous American victory at Yorktown five years after the Declaration was adopted. Yorktown Victory Celebration on October 20-21, 2018, at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown features military encampments and artillery firings, and visitors can take in “The Siege of Yorktown” experiential film inside exhibit galleries to mark the occasion.
RE-CREATING THE PAST
The objects used in the museums’ living-history programs – clothing, tools, furnishings and buildings – are crafted with painstaking attention to historical accuracy. Journalists can arrange a behind-the-scenes visit to the historical clothing workshop, where doublets, breeches, cassocks, bodices, petticoats, coifs, leggings and mantles are custom-made of linen, wool and leather, or talk with museum staff about the construction and repair of buildings at Jamestown Settlement’s re-created fort and Powhatan Indian village and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown’s farm. Skilled work performed regularly and periodically in the living-history areas – blacksmithing, sail repair, carpentry, needlework, flint-knapping and basket- and pottery-making – provides visitors an opportunity to learn about pre-industrial technology and produces many of the objects used in re-creating authentic early 17th- and late-18th-century settings.
HISTORY AND TECHNOLOGY CONVERGE
Long before the advent of electric power and digital communication, science and technology had a profound impact on people’s lives, allowing them to grow crops, hunt and fish, make clothing and tools, build dwellings, and create vehicles for transporting goods over land and water. Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown provide a wealth of opportunities to experience pre-industrial technology firsthand.
At Jamestown Settlement, visitors can board a re-creation of one of the three ships that brought America’s first permanent English colonists to Virginia in 1607 and steer with a tiller or whipstaff, handle navigational instruments, or help raise a sail; watch a blacksmith shape hot iron into nails and hinges in the re-created colonial fort; and weave plant fibers into cordage and use oyster shells to scrape out a canoe at the Powhatan Indian village.
Visitors can help with tending crops and preparing meals at Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown and compare plant cultivation and cooking methods and tools of Powhatan and European cultures. Evolution in weapons technology is illustrated with demonstrations of matchlock muskets at Jamestown Settlement and flintlock muskets, commonly used during the American Revolution, at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.
At the surgeon’s tent in the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown’s re-created Continental Army encampment, historical interpreters show how surgical instruments, including a trephine for drilling holes in the skull and a device for tooth extraction, were used in the 1700s. At the Revolution-era farm, visitors can try out implements for scutching and combing flax, steps in transforming the raw plant into fiber that can be used to make linen thread. Historical interpreters also show the process of dying fabric from natural pigments.
FROM FIELD TO KITCHEN
In the 17th and 18th centuries, herbs like rosemary, mint and lemon balm had culinary and medicinal value. Visit the herb gardens at Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, and discover the variety of herbs and their many uses.
Crops grown by the Powhatan Indians – corn, beans and squash – were adopted by European colonists, who also brought plants such as radishes, cucumbers, lettuce and cabbage to the New World. Visitors can see these crops under cultivation seasonally at Jamestown Settlement’s re-created Powhatan village and colonial fort.
Farming was a way of life for the majority of Virginians at the time of the Revolution. Most Tidewater Virginia farmers grew tobacco and corn for cash, as well as and flax and cotton for cloth and plants for food, medicine and fabric dye. In a tobacco barn at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown farm, where tobacco leaves are hung from poles to cure, visitors learn about the 18-month process from planting seeds to realizing a profit. Within a large fenced garden, historical interpreters grow several dozen varieties of vegetables and herbs year-round.
Take a culinary tour of the re-created Powhatan Indian village at Jamestown Settlement. Learn how the 17th-century Powhatan Indians relied on cultivated crops, wild plants, fish and game for their meals. Visitors often encounter the aroma of baking pies and bread and simmering stews at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown’s farm kitchen and on special occasions at Jamestown Settlement’s re-created colonial fort. The techniques of open-hearth cooking are demonstrated at both museums. An earthen “kitchen” for a company of soldiers is one of the features of the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown encampment.
Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown present “Foods & Feasts of Colonial Virginia” – an annual three-day event beginning on Thanksgiving Day – that offers an original farm to table experience with period food demonstrations from the Powhatan Indians and English sailors and colonists to Revolution-era farmers and soldiers. In 2020, the event will be held November 26-28.
WOMEN OF NOTE
Gallery exhibits at Jamestown Settlement present the fascinating stories of women who made a difference in the 17th century: Cesellye Sherley West, Lady de la Warr, one of a few women investors in the joint-stock company that founded America’s first permanent English colony; Pocahontas, the legendary Powhatan Indian chief’s daughter who befriended the colonists at Jamestown; Queen Njinga, ruler from 1624 to 1663 of the kingdom of Ndongo in Angola, homeland of the first recorded Africans in Virginia; Mary Johnson, who arrived in Virginia from Africa in the early 1620s as a servant or slave and with her husband Anthony became a free person and landowner by the mid-1600s.
Among women featured in exhibits at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown are Mary Katherine Goddard, a printer whose January 1777 copy of the Declaration of Independence was the first to contain the typeset names of all the signatories, and Sarah Osborn Benjamin, who followed the Continental Army with her husband, serving food and coffee to the troops at Yorktown, and lived long enough to have her likeness preserved in the mid-19th century by the new technology of photography.
At Jamestown Settlement’s re-created Powhatan Indian village and colonial fort, compare the status and work roles of English and Powhatan Indian women in the early 17th century. At the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown’s re-created Continental Army encampment, learn about women who accompanied their husbands and earned wages by performing domestic chores, and at the Revolution-era farm, the important role of women in operating a family business.
Winter can be a wonderful time to experience Virginia’s Historic Triangle. The weather is often mild, and many attractions remain open. Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown are open year-round except Christmas and New Year’s days, and offer seasonal events and exhibitions throughout the year.
There’s something for every family member to love in a variety of options for exploring the Jamestown-Williamsburg-Yorktown area. The History is Fun! combination ticket for Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown offers a 15 percent savings over individual admission and is good for seven days of unlimited admission when purchased online. The “America’s Historic Triangle” ticket features the two museums plus Historic Jamestowne, Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area and Art Museums and Yorktown Battlefield. The summertime Williamsburg Flex ticket adds Busch Gardens® and Water Country USA®. All of the tickets are available in packages with lodging.
The Williamsburg area is known for unique and varied shopping opportunities, among them museum stores. The gift shops at Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown complement and extend the museum experience with a comprehensive selection of books, prints, artifact reproductions, educational toys and games, jewelry and mementos. Take a look at shophistoryisfun.com.
For more information about any of these subjects, contact Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation Media Relations at (757) 253-4114.