WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – No matter when a visit is planned to Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center in 2009, the two living-history museums offer a compelling experience, combining gallery exhibits with historical interpretation in outdoor re-created settings to tell the story of America’s beginnings. Daily year-round offerings are enhanced with an array of special programs and a special exhibition, “Jamestown and Bermuda: Virginia Company Colonies,” opening March 1 at Jamestown Settlement.
Jamestown Settlement’s two-year-old introductory film and expansive exhibition galleries, which debuted for 2007’s 400th-anniversary commemoration of America’s first permanent English colony, chronicle 17th-century Virginia in the context of its Powhatan Indian, English and west central African cultures and examine the impact of the Jamestown settlement. The galleries feature dioramas, small-theater presentations and more than 500 artifacts representative of the three cultures. Outdoors, at historically based re-creations of a 17th-century Powhatan Indian village, the three ships that brought English colonists to Virginia in 1607 and a colonial fort, costumed interpreters demonstrate daily activities and technology of the 1600s. Seasonally, a riverfront discovery area highlights 17th-century water travel, commerce and cultural exchange, reflecting Powhatan, English and African traditions.
At the Yorktown Victory Center, a museum of the American Revolution, gallery exhibits explore various themes: the Declaration of Independence as a “dangerous” document; the impact of the Revolution on men and women from diverse backgrounds; events that led to the convergence of American, French and British forces at Yorktown in 1781 for the decisive military encounter of the Revolution; the stories of people who shaped Virginia society; and the creation of a new national government with the Constitution and Bill of Rights. In an outdoor re-created Continental Army encampment, historical interpreters describe and depict the daily life of American soldiers during the last year of the war. A re-created 1780s farm shows how many Americans lived at the time of the Revolution.
“Jamestown and Bermuda: Virginia Company Colonies,” continuing from March 1 through October 15 at Jamestown Settlement, explores the shared history and links between England’s first two permanent colonies in the New World, on the occasion of Bermuda’s 400th anniversary. Objects from the underwater archaeological site of the Sea Venture, wrecked in Bermuda en route to Virginia in 1609, will be exhibited along with paintings, furnishings and documents. Four Saturday evening lectures will be presented in conjunction with the exhibition, on April 25, June 13, July 11 and August 8.
During three months, interpretive programs will focus on themes: “From Africa to Virginia” at Jamestown Settlement in February and, at both museums, “Tools of the Trade” in June and “Pastimes of Colonial Virginia” in August. Lectures related to the “From Africa to Virginia” theme will be presented at Jamestown Settlement on three Sunday afternoons, February 8, 15 and 22.
Two events will mark important milestones in the nation’s history. “Jamestown Day” at Jamestown Settlement on May 16, jointly sponsored with Historic Jamestowne, commemorates the 402nd anniversary of the founding of America’s first permanent English colony. “Yorktown Victory Celebration,” October 17 and 18 at the Yorktown Victory Center, celebrates the 228th anniversary of the decisive military victory of the American Revolution.
Other special events are “Military Through the Ages” March 21 and 22 at Jamestown Settlement, with re-enactment groups spanning the centuries; “Liberty Celebration” July 4 and 5 at the Yorktown Victory Center, saluting the Fourth of July holiday; and “Children’s Day” September 12 at Jamestown Settlement, with 17th-century games and entertainment.
Both museums will feature Virginia foodways during “Foods & Feasts of Colonial Virginia” November 26-28 and 17th- and 18th-century holiday traditions during “A Colonial Christmas” December 1 though January 3, 2010.
Jamestown Settlement and the Yorktown Victory Center are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, until 6 p.m. from June 15 through August 15. A combination ticket for both museums is $19.25 for adults, $9.25 for ages 6-12. Jamestown Settlement admission is $14.00 for adults, $6.50 for ages 6-12. Yorktown Victory Center admission is $9.25 for adults, $5.00 for ages 6-12. An annual pass also is available. Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center admission tickets are included in several Williamsburg area joint tickets and vacation packages.
Jamestown Settlement is located on Route 31 South at the Colonial Parkway next to Historic Jamestowne, administered by APVA Preservation Virginia and the National Park Service. The Yorktown Victory Center is located on Route 1020 in Yorktown near Yorktown Battlefield, administered by the National Park Service. For more information, call (888) 593-4682 toll-free or (757) 253-4838.