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HomeVisitThe Nathalie P. and Alan M. Voorhees Archaearium
  The Nathalie P. and Alan M. Voorhees Archaearium
The Voorhees Archaearium
Objects belonging to Jamestown colonists 400 years ago, unearthed from the long lost James Fort site, are presented to the public for the first time in the Nathalie P. and Alan M. Voorhees Archaearium, a new exhibition facility at Historic Jamestowne. The new facility showcases the findings of the world-renowned archaeological discoveries at the first permanent English settlement in the New World and the birthplace of America.

The virtual viewers enable visitors to view James Fort and the surrounding landscape as it would have looked 400 years ago
The virtual viewers enable visitors to view James Fort and the surrounding landscape as it would have looked 400 years ago
Exhibits focus on the Virginia Company period and reveal a new understanding of the first English settlers, their relationship with the Virginia Indians, their endeavors and struggles, and how they lived, died and shaped a new society. Visitors will discover how archaeologists found the fort and encounter displays of arms and armor, medical instruments, personal objects, ceramics, tools, coins, trade items, musical instruments, games, amusements and food remains. Interactive virtual viewers overlooking the site will virtually transport visitors back in time and show them where objects were recovered and what the fort looked like 400 years ago. The viewers also include videos showing the remains of buildings, wells and artifacts as they were unearthed.

Dead men's tales are also told. The results of forensic research on the remains believed to be those of Capt. Bartholomew Gosnold, a founding father of Jamestown, and the preliminary analysis of over 70 other burials and facial reconstructions of three early settlers will bring visitors face-to-face with human stories from the past.

The Archaearium
The Voorhees Archaearium
Elizabeth Kostelny, Executive Director of APVA Preservation Virginia explains that the design of the 7,500 sq. ft. Voorhees Archaearium overlooking the James River and the fort site integrates the historic landscape into the interpretative experience. "Seeing objects within view of the sites where they were unearthed - where they were last touched by the colonists who lived here - creates an immediate and powerful connection with the past. They can also walk around the site and see the current excavations and sites where structures and objects were discovered," she said.

The Voorhees Archaearium
The Voorhees Archaearium
Interpretive exhibits were developed by Haley Sharpe Design from Leicester, England, and the archaeological staff. Bly Straube, APVA senior curator, selected artifacts from the collection that best articulate the way of life at Jamestown and "provide a richer, fairer, more intimate understanding of the beginnings of our nation." She adds that visitors will discover not only what archaeologists have learned, but how they know what they know through the process of analyzing finds in relationship to where they were found and what was found with them.

William Kelso, director of archaeology, said evidence of the earliest known surgery in English America, attempts at industry and metallurgy, building and rebuilding of the fort, sophisticated architecture, trade with the Indians, adaptation to the environment in the midst of the worst drought in 770 years, and other discoveries revealed through the exhibits dispel the lingering view traditionally held by some historians that the Jamestown settlers were lazy, ill-prepared and incompetent. Exhibits also provide evidence of friendly as well as hostile interactions with the Indians.

Compelling forensic research on the remains believed to be those of Capt. Bartholomew Gosnold, a founding father of Jamestown, and "JR", a young gentleman who died of a musket ball wound to his knee, is showcased along with facial reconstructions of three early colonists. A preliminary analysis of over 70 other burials from the mid-1600s that were excavated from an unmarked graveyard discovered beneath the Statehouse provides insight into the population, life expectancy, how they lived and died, and how they buried their dead. Kostelny said these skeletal remains will be reinterred in the Voorhees Archaearium's memorial courtyard during 2007.

The Reconstructed Well
The Reconstructed Well
A three-dimensional representation of a 1620s well shows almost a full suit of armor and dozens of objects suspended within it just as they were discovered by archaeologists. A partial reconstruction of a mud and stud building represents the early architecture of the fort, and 17th-century wine bottles including one stamped with the seal of Governor Francis Nicholson, are displayed as they were found in a cellar from the late 1600s when Jamestown was still the capital of Virginia.

Built over the remains of the last Statehouse in Jamestown (1660-1698), the Voorhees Archaearium also allows visitors to see portions of the excavated ruins of the Statehouse through sections of glass flooring and preserves the foundations. An outline of the building's foundations is represented throughout the facility in the carpeting.

For APVA Preservation Virginia, the Voorhees Archaearium continues a tradition of preserving the cultural and natural environment of Jamestown Island that began over a hundred years ago when they acquired 22.5 acres in 1893. The National Park Service purchased the rest of the 1,500 acre island in 1932. Today, the island is jointly preserved and interpreted by the two organizations.

According to Kostelny, the Voorhees Archaearium, designed by Carlton Abbott and Partners and built by Daniel & Company, promises to become the model for the preservation and interpretation of archaeological sites in the future and for environmentally sensitive green building elements and technology.

The Voorhees Archaearium
The Voorhees Archaearium
The one-story building rests on a series of pilings carefully sited to avoid disturbing seventeenth century-archaeological features or artifacts, and is designed to withstand high winds and possible rises in water levels in this hurricane susceptible region. The exterior of the building is clad in copper sheathing enhancing its energy efficiency and acknowledging the importance of copper in trade between the Virginia Indians and early settlers. Large glass panels front the building and connect the interior exhibits to the landscape on which the archaeological features and artifacts were unearthed.

Admission and Tour Information

Admission to the Voorhees Archaearium is included with the purchase of an admission to Historic Jamestowne except for school groups.

Voorhees Archaearium Tour Policy for School Groups

Jamestown Rediscovery Preservation Virginia Colonial Williamsburg National Park Service 757-229-4997
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