A New World

A New World: England's First View of America - British Museum Exhibition of John White Watercolors
An Indian Werowance, or Chief,  John White, watercolour, c. 1585.

An Indian Werowance, or Chief, John White, watercolour, c. 1585. The Trustees of the British Museum. All rights reserved.

Jamestown Settlement exhibited the 16th-century watercolor drawings of John White from the British Museum’s “A New World: England’s First View of America” July 15 through October 15, 2008.

The drawings are the earliest visual record by an Englishman of the flora, fauna and people of the New World.  White accompanied a number of expeditions sponsored by Sir Walter Raleigh to Virginia in the 1580s and was governor of the short-lived colony at Roanoke Island, part of modern North Carolina.  He departed for England in 1587 to obtain more supplies, but war with Spain delayed his return until 1590.  By then the colonists had vanished, and Roanoke became known as the “Lost Colony.”

Jamestown, America’s first permanent English colony, was established 17 years later, about 100 miles away.  White’s depictions of the Algonquian-speaking people of the region have been an important resource in the development of Jamestown Settlement’s gallery exhibits and outdoor re-created Powhatan Indian village.

Scenes from other parts of the Americas and depictions of peoples of the world also are among the more than 70 White drawings in the exhibition. White’s work is widely known through adaptations by other artists, especially Theodor de Bry, whose engravings after White’s watercolors illustrate a 1590 edition of Thomas Harriot’s “A briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia.”

The exhibition at Jamestown Settlement was funded in part by donations and grants, including an appropriation from James City County.


Learning resources about John White and the Lost Colony:

Learn about Roanoke’s Achievement, John White and the Roanoke colony, in a paper by Karen Ordahl Kupperman, a leading early American history scholar,  in connection with the special exhibition.

Read more about the significance of the John White watercolors.

Learn more about John White and his watercolors in the exhibition brochure, A New World: England’s First View of America.


For Young People

Use this Artifact Odyssey guide to learn about John White, the Jamestown Settlement galleries and outdoor areas and discover how historians use nature, artifacts, images and words to learn about the people and places of 17th-century Virginia.