With the opening of the spacious new museum building at the Yorktown Victory Center – a midpoint milestone in the museum’s transformation into the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown – there are extra opportunities for general and group visitors to experience hands-on history.
For elementary school groups, the refreshed Yorktown Victory Center Guided Tour now includes an illustrated classroom component. Slides showing key images from the planned new museum galleries serve as a backdrop for hands-on activities. In the Timeline Scramble, students compete to line up key events of the Revolution in the order they took place. In a basic economics matching game played on a floor map, students pair products with the colonies that produced them. Students also can role-play events that led up to the 1770 Boston Massacre to understand British and American perspectives.
Outdoors, every tour group now is “recruited” into the Continental Army or militia, and taught basic marching, drilling and facing skills. At the Revolution-era farm students learn that colonial Virginians almost always “ate local.” From garden to table required seasons of labor. They may process flax to prepare linen thread for spinning, and follow the money trail of the tobacco economy. In the Continental Army encampment, students experience army medical treatments for disease and wounds and life in the privates’ and officers’ quarters, see a flintlock musket fired, and may participate in an artillery demonstration.
High school students can now choose the Revolution and the New Nation themed guided tour. This hands-on tour includes many of the activities of the Yorktown Victory Center Guided Tour, plus games and matching activities that help students identify the people and philosophies that influenced the Declaration of Independence and the political positions defined by the Federalists and Anti-Federalists during the framing of the Constitution.
Members of the public who visit the museum have new options, too. A film is shown in the new theater every half hour, and an enlarged gift shop that opens off the main lobby offers a range of books, gifts and souvenirs for every age and taste. “Connecting the Dots, 1763 – 1783” is a live program offered in the new education center on scheduled days and times. This illustrated program provides visitors with a basic understanding of the American Revolution in only thirty minutes.
In the museum’s grand corridor, a timeline exhibit provides an overview of the important players and events of the Revolution. Volunteers may engage visitors with try-on uniform coats and hands-on history carts. Costumed interpreters in the outdoor living history Continental Army encampment and farm provide demonstrations of daily life. Participatory artillery drills are offered twice a day in the Continental Army encampment this summer. Visitors receive a daily schedule of events when they purchase their tickets.