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'TENACITY: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia' Special Exhibition Wins Prestigious 2020 AASLH Leadership in History Award of Excellence

WILLIAMSBURG, Va., June 5, 2020 — The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) has announced that the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation is the recipient of an Award of Excellence for last year’s “TENACITY: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia” special exhibition at Jamestown Settlement, a living-history museum of 17th-century Virginia, administered by the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation. The AASLH Leadership in History Awards, now in its 75th year, is the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history.

Tenacity special exhibition“’TENACITY’ was truly a collaborative effort across the entire Foundation, where the exhibition became interwoven into the fabric of our institution,” acknowledged Katherine Egner Gruber, special exhibition curator at the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation. “While it’s rewarding to have the exhibition recognized, the real reward has been bringing these women’s lives into the narrative of early Virginia  – and there’s no going back. These difficult and often overlooked histories shape the complexity of the earliest years of our nation. We’re committed to continue integrating the legacy of Virginia Indian, west central African and English women in our galleries and programming.”

The “TENACITY” special exhibition, a 2019 Commemoration legacy project on display from November 10, 2018, through January 5, 2020, featured more than 60 artifacts from 20 domestic and international lenders to tell the real stories of courage and perseverance of Virginia Indian, west central African and English women who lived at the time of Jamestown’s founding. Artifacts and primary sources, some on view in the United States for the first time, blended with interactives, videos and compelling visuals. A nine-part lecture series and four special events, two theatrical performances and two academic symposiums accompanied the exhibition.

“’TENACITY’ was a premiere example of ‘good history’ in museum interpretation,” noted Linda Monk, J.D., a constitutional scholar, journalist and national award-winning author, in her review of the exhibition. “It took a multicultural approach to the founding of the Virginia colony, examining how women experienced this era from various perspectives of race and class. ‘TENACITY’ embraced the full sweep of the human condition – hope and terror, success and failure, love and cruelty. The only ‘exceptionalism’ was that of the human spirit. Visitors were able to trust the narrative because no voice was excluded.”

Sandra Gioia Treadway, Ph.D., Librarian of Virginia, praised the exhibit. “Never before have so many artifacts relating to early Virginia women been displayed together… placed alongside the stories of Indian women such as Pocahontas and Cockacoeske, African women like Angelo and Elizabeth Key, and English women such as Anne Burras Laydon and Elizabeth Procter, inviting visitors to imagine how they and their contemporaries interacted with these objects in their daily lives,” she noted. “The exhibition did not shy away from discussing difficult topics and the darker side of life in early Virginia, but it did an excellent job of tying every woman’s story back to the exhibition’s central theme. What every woman in this period had in common was the will and strength to survive – tenacity.”

The American Association for State and Local History, a not-for-profit professional organization of individuals and institutions working to preserve and promote history, conferred 57 national awards this year honoring people, projects, exhibits and publications representing the best in the field and leadership for the future of state and local history. From its headquarters in Nashville, Tenn., AASLH provides leadership, service, and support for its members who preserve and interpret state and local history in order to make the past more meaningful to all people. For more information, contact AASLH at 615-320-3203, or visit aaslh.org.

The Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, an agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, administers Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown in Williamsburg, Virginia. “TENACITY” was a public-private partnership funded by the Commonwealth of Virginia, James City County and 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution, with additional support from the Robins Foundation. For information on Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, visit historyisfun.org.