A museum of 17th-century Virginia
At Jamestown Settlement, a living-history museum of 17th-century Virginia history and culture, discover the story of America’s first permanent English colony, founded in 1607 in the midst of Virginia’s Powhatan Indian chiefdom, and the ensuing convergence of diverse cultures, vividly recounted through film, expansive indoor gallery exhibits and outdoor living history.
Aboard life-size replicas of the three 1607 ships—Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery—visitors will get a sense of the spirit of opportunity that motivated the Jamestown colonists as well as the difficult living conditions endured by 17th-century voyagers. In the museum’s re-created fort, learn how the colonists coped with an unfamiliar environment and brought English customs to the New World. Visitors will also discover the culture of the Powhatan Indians in a re-created village.
The museum, operated by the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, is located about a mile from the original site and 10 minutes from Williamsburg.
Film and Exhibits Chronicle America’s Beginnings in 1600s Virginia
A visit to Jamestown Settlement begins with a docudrama film, “1607: A Nation Takes Root,” that presents an overview of the first two decades of the Virginia colony. A “great hall” spanning the length of the museum’s exhibition galleries provides, with illustrations and text, a chronological journey from 1600 to 1699, when the capital of Virginia moved from Jamestown to Williamsburg.
Exhibition galleries—featuring period artifacts, dioramas and short films—chronicle the nation’s 17th-century beginnings in Virginia in the context of its Powhatan Indian, English and west central African cultures. Full-scale dioramas portraying a Powhatan Indian setting and a dwelling in Angola, homeland of the first Africans in Virginia and an English streetscape all set the stage for exhibits that delve into a vast range of topics.
An exhibit gallery featuring a scale model of a 1607 Powhatan community explores the complexity of the relationship between Virginia’s colonists and the native Powhatan people. Exhibits also show how the English secured a foothold in Virginia with the establishment of settlements and economic enterprises and set the course of the future with the introduction of tobacco as a cash crop. While the first documented Africans to arrive in Virginia in 1619 may eventually have won their freedom, the emergence of lifetime servitude for later African immigrants was motivated by the demand for labor to produce tobacco. An object theater chronicles African encounters with Europeans and the development of the transatlantic slave trade.
Exhibits also offer an overview of the political, social and economic development and expansion of the Virginia colony during the 17th century, while Jamestown served as its capital. Full-scale structures re-created from archaeological sites depict Powhatan, slave and planter dwellings of the late 1600s. Short films describe the evolution and impact of government in 17th-century Virginia and the legacies of Jamestown that were the seeds of the United States of America.
Visitors Interact With Historical Interpreters in Outdoor Settings
Outdoors in the re-created Powhatan Indian village, historical interpreters discuss and demonstrate the Powhatan way of life. The village, consisting of several dwellings, a garden and a circle of carved ceremonial posts, is based on archaeological findings at a site once inhabited by Paspahegh Indians, the Powhatan tribal group closest to Jamestown, and descriptions recorded by English colonists.
From the Powhatan Indian village, a path leads to a pier where the Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery are docked. Visitors can talk with costumed interpreters about the four-and-a-half-month voyage from England and take part in periodic demonstrations on piloting and navigation, knot-tying and sail-handling.
Inside the wooden palisade of Jamestown Settlement’s re-created colonial fort are wattle-and-daub structures with thatched roofs representing Jamestown’s earliest buildings. Interpreters demonstrate activities typical of daily life during the 1610–1614 time period and provide daily demonstrations of matchlock musket firing.
Visitors are welcome to handle many of the 17th-century reproduction items used in Jamestown Settlement’s outdoor living-history program: grind corn, help make darts in the Powhatan Indian village and, in the fort, try on armor.
Special events and programs include “Military Through the Ages” in March, “Jamestown Day” in May, “Historic Trades Fair” in June, “American Indian Intertribal Powwow” in October, “Foods & Feasts of Colonial Virginia” in November and “A Colonial Christmas” in December. Opening July 15 through January 28, 2018, visitors can view the special exhibition, “Pocahontas Imagined.”
Jamestown Settlement, located on Route 31 South, is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and until 6 p.m. from June 15 through August 15. You should allow three hours for your visit. 2017 admission is $17 for adults and $8 for ages 6–12. Children under 6 are admitted free.
A value-priced combination ticket is available with the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. Call 888-593-4682 toll free or 757-253-4838 for more information, or visit HistoryIsFun.org
Walk in the footsteps of Captain John Smith, Pocahontas and the men and women who settled England’s first permanent colony in North America in 1607. Experience the actual place where the first representative assembly in America met and the first Africans arrived in Virginia.
Explore the original site of the 1607 James Fort and witness the moment of discovery as archaeologists uncover artifacts from this first settlement. At the Historic Jamestowne Visitor Center, explore daily interpretive programs, tour the exhibit galleries, shop in the museum store and view a multimedia theater presentation that will immerse you in the sights and sounds of 17th–century Jamestown.
Located at the east end of the island, the Nathalie P. and Alan M. Voorhees Archaearium, Jamestown’s archaeology museum, displays more than 2,000 artifacts from James Fort.
After a visit to the Archaearium, enjoy lunch on the banks of the James River at the Dale House Café. Spend time soaking up the natural environment of the island, where you can observe bald eagles, blue herons and white-tailed deer among the indigenous wildlife that thrive in the area.
Throughout the year, you can meet some of the early settlers during eyewitness programs and living history tours. Events are held on site to commemorate important dates in Jamestown’s history.
After departing the Visitor Center, continue your visit with a trip along the Island Loop Drive, a five-mile, self-guided driving tour, where you can explore the natural environment. Exhibit signs along the drive explain how the early Jamestown settlers harnessed this environment to help them survive.
Complete your visit with a stop at the Glasshouse of 1608 to observe artisans practice glassmaking, one of the earliest industries attempted on the island.
Historic Jamestowne is jointly administered by the National Park Service and The Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation (on behalf of Preservation Virginia) and preserves the site of America’s first permanent English settlement.
Admission to Historic Jamestowne also includes admission to Yorktown Battlefield and provides unlimited access to both historic sites for seven consecutive days. The site is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and the Visitor Center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day). Visitors may stay on the site until dusk. For admission prices and event information, visit www.HistoricJamestowne.org or call 757-856-1250.