Jamestown Settlement Overview
Living-history museum recalls America's beginnings
WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – At Jamestown Settlement, a living-history museum of 17th-century Virginia, discover the story of America’s first permanent English colony, founded in 1607, and the ensuing convergence of the Powhatan Indian, English and west central African cultures, vividly recounted through film, indoor gallery exhibits and outdoor living history.
Discover the stories of real people and events of early Virginia in exhibition galleries recently refreshed with a $10.6 million enhancement incorporating new historical research and innovative technology. Experience 30,000-square-feet of immersive exhibits with an expanded collection of 500 artifacts, dynamic displays, engaging interactives and 4-D theater where Bacon’s Rebellion comes alive with state-of-the-art special effects.
Outdoors, visitors are immersed in history in life-size re-creations of a Paspahegh town, three ships that brought English colonists to Virginia in 1607, and a 1610-14 fort. Visitors can try on armor, shape a dugout canoe, steer with a ship’s tiller, and other activities that make the past come alive. Some hands-on experiences may be limited to ensure safety protocols related to COVID-19.
Immersive Films and Refreshed Gallery Exhibits
Begin your visit with 1607: A Nation Takes Root, a docudrama that traces the evolution of the Virginia Company that sponsored the Jamestown colony, examines the relationship between the English colonists and the Powhatan Indians, and chronicles the arrival of the first recorded Africans in 1619.
Gallery exhibits explore the three cultures through artifact-filled cases, dioramas and short films. Interactives allow visitors to compare and contrast each of the three cultures, explore the life and legend of Pocahontas, and examine the impact of 1619 historical events that shaped Virginia.
Take in a new one-of-a-kind 4-D multi-sensory, multi-layered projection theater where “Bacon’s Rebellion,” a 1676 armed rebellion of Virginia colonists led by Nathaniel Bacon against the rule of Governor William Berkeley.
A “great hall” spanning the length of the museum’s exhibition galleries provides, with illustrations and text, a chronological journey from 1600 to 1699, when the capital of Virginia moved from Jamestown to Williamsburg.
Outdoor Living-History Experiences
Outdoors at a re-created Paspahegh town – based on archaeological findings at a site once inhabited by Paspahegh Indians, the Powhatan tribal group closest to Jamestown, and descriptions recorded by English colonists – historical interpreters show the Powhatan way of life – how to grow and prepare food, process animal hides, build dugout canoes, make tools and pottery, and weave plant fibers into cordage.
From there, take the path to the James River pier where re-creations of the three ships that transported the Jamestown colonists to Virginia in 1607 – the Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery – are docked. Visitors can board and explore one of the three ships to learn about the 144-day voyage from England, and take part in periodic demonstrations of piloting and navigation, knot-tying and sail-handling.
Inside the wooden palisade of the re-created fort, reflecting its military and commercial character in 1610-14, are wattle-and-daub structures with thatched roofs. Cover your ears during daily demonstrations of matchlock musket firing, see a blacksmith at work in a forge, and take part with interpreters to cultivate crops, prepare meals and repair tools the 17th-century way.
Visitors are welcome to touch and use many of the 17th-century reproduction items that are part of Jamestown Settlement’s living-history program. They may grind corn, climb into a dugout canoe, steer with a whipstaff or tiller, try on armor, take an inventory of supplies, play quoits and ninepins, and experience a variety of other activities that make the 17th century come alive.
About Jamestown Settlement
Visitors can expect to spend about three hours at Jamestown Settlement. Additional time should be allowed for the original site of Jamestown, adjacent to the museum. Historic Jamestowne is jointly administered by the National Park Service and Jamestown Rediscovery (on behalf of Preservation Virginia).
Jamestown Settlement is located at the intersection of Virginia Route 31 and the Colonial Parkway. Operating hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily year-round; closed Christmas and New Year’s days. 2021 admission is $18.00 for adults and $9.00 for ages 6-12. A value-priced combination ticket and annual pass are available with the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. Parking is free at both museums.
A newly remodeled gift shop offers a comprehensive selection of books, prints, artifact reproductions, educational toys and games, jewelry and mementos. The Jamestown Settlement Café offers freshly prepared salads, sandwiches, entrees, desserts and beverages.
Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown are administered by the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, an agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia that is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. For more information, call (757) 253-4838, or visit jyfmuseums.org.
Submit requests for information and images by emailing one of the media contacts below. All emails end with the extension: @jyf.virginia.gov.
Tracy Perkins, (757) 253-4114 or tracy.perkins
Meghan van Joosten, (757) 253-4175 or meghan.vanjoosten