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'Virginia Company Colonies' Exhibition Coincides with Bermuda's 400th Anniversary

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – “Jamestown and Bermuda: Virginia Company Colonies,” a special exhibition March 1 through October 15, 2009, at Jamestown Settlement, a state-operated museum of 17th-century Virginia, will examine the shared history and links between England’s first two permanent colonies in the New World.

A companion lecture series will feature guest speakers at 7 p.m. on April 25, June 13, July 11 and August 8.

A British presence was established in Bermuda in 1609 when the Sea Venture, the flagship of a fleet en route to Jamestown in Virginia, was shipwrecked.  Bermuda commemorates its 400th anniversary in 2009, two years after the Jamestown quadricentennial.

Beginning with the wreck of the Sea Venture, upon which Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest” is based, the exhibition will trace Bermuda’s 400-year history, highlighting its importance as a strategic location and emergence as a premier travel destination in the 20th century.  The Sea Venture’s passengers survived the disaster, built two smaller vessels in Bermuda and in 1610 sailed on to Virginia, leaving behind two people.  More than two dozen objects from the Sea Venture underwater archaeological site will be exhibited courtesy of the Bermuda Maritime Museum.

Virginia and Bermuda were initially administered by the Virginia Company of London and later became British royal colonies.  Today, Bermuda is the oldest self-governing British overseas territory.  Legislative bodies formed in Virginia in 1619 and Bermuda in 1620 continue to the present and are represented in the exhibition with the Virginia House of Delegates Speaker’s chair, dating to the 18th century, and a 17th-century cedar chair from the Parliament of Bermuda.

Portraits of two British monarchs associated with Virginia and Bermuda – King James I and Queen Elizabeth II – and two early governors – Lord de la Warr, appointed Lord Governor and Captain General of Virginia by the Virginia Company in 1610, and Henry Hamilton, governor of Bermuda from 1785 to 1794 – will be exhibited.

Silver communion sets dating to the 17th century, from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Hampton, Virginia, and St. Peter’s Church in St. George, Bermuda, symbolize the prominent role of the Church of England in both colonies.

The exhibition will feature items from the Earl Gregg Swem Library of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg related to St. George Tucker, an 18th-century Virginia judge and legal scholar born in Bermuda, and examples of Bermuda-made 17th- and 18th-century cedar furniture and silver spoons from the Tucker House in St. George, Bermuda, the 18th-century home of St. George Tucker’s brother Henry.

The American Revolution, American Civil War and World War II are among conflicts that have involved Bermuda because of its crossroads location in the Atlantic and proximity to the North American coast.  Examples of Revolutionary era correspondence from the Swem Library, a painting depicting a Civil War blockade runner from The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia, and a World War II flyer from the Bermuda National Archives will be exhibited.

A late 19th-century watercolor painting by Princess Louise, daughter of Queen Victoria, loaned for the exhibition by the National Gallery of Canada, depicts Bermuda’s Hamilton Harbour.  This painting brought Bermuda’s unique character to the attention of other artists, whose work influenced the development of Bermuda as a travel destination.  A selection of paintings by leading American, Canadian and British artists depicting Bermuda scenes, including a game of croquet, will come to the exhibition from Bermuda’s Masterworks Foundation.  Among them is “Banyan Tree Trunk” by Georgia O’Keeffe, who lived in Williamsburg, Virginia, for part of her youth and taught art for two summers at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

The popularity of both Virginia and Bermuda as travel destinations will be illustrated with a display of posters and other promotional materials.

Located in Jamestown Settlement’s special exhibition gallery, “Jamestown and Bermuda: Virginia Company Colonies” is funded by grants from James City County and the Bank of Bermuda Foundation and other donations.

The St. George’s Foundation worked with the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, the Virginia state agency that operates Jamestown Settlement, to facilitate artifact loans from Bermuda institutions.

The Saturday evening lecture series, funded with a grant from Dominion, features “The Lion and the Mouse … the Story of America and Bermuda” on April 25, presented by Bermuda filmmaker Lucinda Spurling; “The Shipwreck That Saved Jamestown: The Sea Venture Castaways and the Fate of America” on June 13, presented by University of Tennessee Professor of History Lorri Glover, co-author of a book with the same title as her talk; “Sister Colonies: Virginia, Bermuda, and the Beginnings of English America” on July 11, presented by University of Rochester Associate Professor of History Michael Jarvis; and “Somewhere Beyond the Sea: Art, Artists, and Bermuda” on August 8, presented by Founding and Creative Director Tom Butterfield of The Masterworks Foundation.  Advance reservations are required for the free evening lectures at Jamestown Settlement’s Robins Foundation Theater by contacting (757) 253-4415 orrsvp.lecture@jyf.virginia.gov.

Jamestown Settlement, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, until 6 p.m. June 15 through August 15, is located southwest of Williamsburg on Route 31 at the Colonial Parkway next to Historic Jamestowne, site of the 1607 English settlement.  Jamestown Settlement general admission of $14.00 for adults and $6.50 for ages 6 through 12 includes admission to the special exhibition.  Permanent museum exhibits include expansive exhibition galleries and outdoor re-creations of an early 17th-century Powhatan Indian village, the three ships that brought America’s first permanent English colonists to Virginia in 1607 and a 1610-14 colonial fort.

For more information, call (888) 593-4682 toll-free or (757) 253-4838.  A video and a background paper, both titled “The Story of the Sea Venture,” are available at hif.ciniva.net/jamestown-and-bermuda.htm.