“Interpretation is the revelation of a larger truth that lies behind any statement of fact. . . [and] should capitalize [on] mere curiosity for the enrichment of the human mind and spirit.”
– Freeman Tilden Interpreting Our Heritage
Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown are living-history museums. Our frontline staff are historical interpreters – a title that can invoke curiosity and a lengthy explanation of one’s job description! Little note is taken of us when pumping gas or grocery shopping around Williamsburg while wearing our historical clothing. At a marina sixty miles from the historic triangle, we typically get more than a cursory glance from the local population! But, our mission is still the same.
Understanding Jamestown’s place in American history can start with something as simple as a ship’s biscuit, which highlights a technology that allowed ships to travel over thousands of miles of ocean for many months. Without the ability to preserve food, and ships large enough to carry tons of provisions for the 144 men and boys, the colonists would never have succeeded. The colorful traverse board, often mistaken as a game, invokes many inquiries. This simple record keeping tool was used for navigation before the invention of the chronometer allowed navigators to accurately determine a ship’s longitude. The process of setting the foretopsail with eager volunteers demonstrates the responsibilities and hierarchy of the ship’s crew and allows a comparison with the modern sloop tied up just forward of Godspeed.
In the end, Jamestown’s place as the first permanent English settlement in America is directly related to the success the English had in repeatedly bringing ships across the Atlantic Ocean to resupply the fledgling colony with food and more colonists. This helps explain why we sail Godspeed – to evoke curiosity and questions. Our historical interpreters use that interest to help explain Jamestown’s broader place in our nation’s history to a larger audience.
We have had a wonderful time in Reedville over the last few days – opening our ship to the local community, and hosting Northumberland County Elementary School’s fourth graders. We will depart tomorrow morning, bound home to Jamestown Settlement. The forecast promises a fair breeze out of the east-northeast, so stay tuned for more great pictures and videos of Godspeed as the ship makes its way home over the next three days!