At the risk of sounding like a travel writer, here are some of my thoughts after a day spent in Jamestown.
If you are planning a visit to Jamestown, realize that there are two options. (We took both). The first is the “Jamestown Settlement.” This includes a very impressive museum tracing the history of Virginia from 1607 to the turn of the eigtheenth century. We were fortunate enough to arrive while the late sixteenth-century watercolor drawings of John White were on display here, on loan from the British Museum. The Jamestown Settlement also has an outdoor living history museum which includes replicas (complete with historical re-enactors) of the Jamestown Fort, a Powhaton Indian village, and the Susan Constant. If you have kids, then you should definitely take a half a day and work your way through the settlement. If you do not have kids or if you and your family are hard-core history buffs then I would move quickly through the outdoor stuff so you can maximize your time at “Historic Jamestowne.”
Historic Jamestowne is run by the National Park Service and Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA). This is where archaeologist William Kelso actually “found the fort” back in 1994. It is quite an amazing story and you can read about it in Kelso’s book Jamestown: The Buried Truth. The archaeology continues and, from what I have been able to glean, will continue for many more years as long as the project is deemed worthy of funding. A visit to this sight is worth the trip. We learned a great deal about the fort from Jerry, a retired volunteer at the site. I talked to several students in the Summer Jamestown Field School, a 6 week crash course in archaeology that allows students of all ages (we met a middle-aged mother, but most of the members of the field school working at the site were college students). to work on the site. They were gracious enough to take time from their digging and sifting to describe some of their experiences. I have been pushing this field school to my students for several years now, but after seeing what a wonderful opportunity this program offers, I will push even harder. Finally, you have to check out the Jamestown Church (with its 1639 foundation still in tact) and especially the Archaearium, which includes over one million artifacts unearthed from the fort.
There are so many interpretive comments I would like to make about this trip to Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown. I hope to make them sporadically over the course of the next few weeks and include some pictures.