Hands-On History


WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – History is an adventure at Jamestown Settlement and the The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, museums of 17th- and 18th-century Virginia. Whether trying on armor or wandering through soldiers’ tents, people of all ages will find the past coming to life as they encounter costumed historical interpreters demonstrating everyday life in re-created settings.

At Jamestown Settlement, a museum depicting the early years of America’s first permanent English colony, visitors can immerse themselves in much the same environment the settlers encountered and built four centuries ago. In 1607, English settlers aboard three merchant ships endured a four-and-a-half month voyage across the Atlantic to arrive at Jamestown. On the pier where the replica ships Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery are docked, families can delve into the contents of a “see” chest and learn how ship’s rigging is used to lift and lower cargo. On board one of the ships, they can steer with a whipstaff or tiller. Children might try out one of the crew’s beds on the Susan Constant, the largest of the ships, then descend to the deck below to see where the 54 passengers lived.

Back on shore, the world of Pocahontas – the Virginia Indian chief’s daughter who befriended the English colonists – is evoked in Jamestown Settlement’s re-created Powhatan Indian village. Historical interpreters help visitors make cordage the way the Powhatans did, using plant fibers. Families can learn how the Powhatan people fashioned tools from bone and stone, pound corn kernels into meal, and discover how deerskin was processed to make clothing and furnishings. Visitors can use oyster shells to scrape out a tree trunk to learn how Powhatan Indians made canoes, and climb into one already hollowed out.

Inside a re-created colonial fort, children can play a game of ninepins or quoits. Adults and children alike can feel well protected as they try on metal armor and watch as a historical interpreter fires a matchlock musket.

A short distance from Jamestown Settlement, the The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, a museum of the American Revolution, also engages visitors in hands-on history to make learning an interactive experience for the whole family. Here, an outdoor re-created Continental Army encampment familiarizes visitors with the daily activities of Revolutionary soldiers. Families can explore their living quarters and try on a uniform, visit the camp surgeon’s tent to learn about 18th-century medical techniques, observe how soldiers prepared meals at a unique earthen “kitchen,” and join an artillery crew, then watch as the weapon is fired.

At the The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown’s re-created 1780s farm, visitors can practice breaking flax, one of the steps in producing linen thread. In the farm’s gardens, youngsters can lend a hand pulling weeds, watering plants with hollowed-out gourds, and harvesting – just as children did two centuries ago.

Throughout the galleries at both museums, display panels at a child’s eye level ask thought-provoking questions that help young visitors compare their lives today with life during 1600s Virginia and the Revolutionary War era. At Jamestown Settlement, next to a display of Powhatan, English and African tools for grinding corn, planting crops and cutting wood is a touch-screen panel for selecting video demonstrations of how each was used. At Jamestown Settlement, visitors can venture inside a full-scale partial re-creation of the Susan Constant.

Both museums are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily year-round (until 6 p.m. June 15-August 15); closed on Christmas and New Year’s days. Children will need assistance in following directions for hands-on exhibits and must be accompanied by adults throughout the museums. A value-priced combination ticket for both museums is $20.50 for adults and $10.50 for ages 6 through 12 in 2014. Children under 6 are admitted free. Individual museum admission also is available. Jamestown Settlement is located on State Route 31, about six miles southwest of Williamsburg, and adjacent to Historic Jamestowne. The The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown is located on Route 1020 in Yorktown, about 12 miles from Williamsburg, and near Yorktown Battlefield.

For more information, call (888) 593-4682 toll-free or (757) 253-4838, or visit hif.ciniva.net. ### Media Contacts: Debby Padgett, (757) 253-4175 Tracy Perkins, (757) 253-4114 Susan Bak, (757) 253-4138