Founded in 1607, Jamestown was one of the first English attempts to create a colony in North America. The site of the original settlement is now a cultural heritage site and home to a living history museum featuring educational exhibits and programs, as well as reenactments and historic artifacts from the colonial period. Historic Jamestowne is operated by the National Park Service and Preservation Virginia. As a result, visitors to Colonial Williamsburg may find that a visit to Historic Jamestowne offers a better balance of education over entertainment and does more to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions about the colonial period. While both sites employ historians and others who strive to provide an authentic and historically accurate experience, Historic Jamestowne places a much greater emphasis on education and preservation. Through a variety of programs as well as tours, historians work to portray accurate depictions of the lives of settlers, enslaved workers, and Native Americans.
Backstory and Context
Historic Jamestowne blends aspects of entertainment with education about the experience of settlers, slaves, and Native Americans at Jamestown. Established in 1607 as one of the first footholds of British colonization in North America, the site represents the hardships that were shared not only by the settlers but also Native Americans, indentured servants, and Africans held in slavery.
Named after King James I of England, Jamestown as part of the larger settlement effort by English colonists that would later include the Pilgrims of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. King James hoped that this settlement would help supplement the natural resources that were not readily available on the original island nation.
Using primary sources such as diaries and maps, scholars have advised park promoters in an attempt to reconstruct both the English fort and a recreated Powhatan Native American settlement. The park includes reconstructed models of colonial ships like those brought the original colonists to Jamestown. Visitors can also access gallery spaces which include an experiential exhibit on Bacon's Rebellion. As archaeologists work on uncovering and documenting the remains of James Fort, original to the settlement, visitors can observe the dig. More than one thousand artifacts from the site are on display in the Nathalie P. and Alan M. Voorhees Archaearium.
A Short History of Jamestown, National Park Service. February 26th 2015. Accessed December 9th 2019. https://www.nps.gov/jame/learn/historyculture/a-short-history-of-jamestown.htm.
Denny, Edward. The Archaearium, Atlas Obscura. Accessed March 15th 2020. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/the-archaearium.
History Timeline, Historic Jamestowne. Accessed December 9th 2019. https://historicjamestowne.org/history/history-timeline/.
Jamestown National Historic Site, Historical Marker Database. Accessed December 9th 2019. https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=10262.
History of Jamestown, Historic Jamestown. Accessed December 9th 2019. https://historicjamestowne.org/history/history-of-jamestown/.
Historic Jamestowne, Preservation Virginia. Accessed December 9th 2019. https://preservationvirginia.org/historic-sites/historic-jamestowne/.