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Why You Should Register for the Weapons of War Conference

Colonial Williamsburg offers a closer look at the arms of the American Revolution


October 11-13, distinguished speakers will convene to bring arms students, military historians, and antique collectors their collective expertise for the newest in Colonial Williamsburg’s conferences lineup: The Weapons of War: Military Arms in Revolutionary America.

Accepting registration through September 20, the conference will explore the various arms types which came to America during this formative period. From the archaeologically recovered fragments, which tell us what was really used during the Revolutionary period, to the conservation of surviving artifacts, the conference will explore a diverse array of weapons and ways of looking at them through modern eyes.

We caught up with Erik Goldstein, Senior Curator of Mechanical Arts and Numismatics at Colonial Williamsburg, one of the symposium organizers, to tell us more about what to expect.

It’s impossible for Erik Goldstein, Senior Curator of Mechanical Arts and Numismatics at Colonial Williamsburg, to pick a favorite in the “To Arm Against An Enemy” exhibition.

Who would you recommend this conference to?

Anyone with an interest in the French & Indian and Revolutionary Wars will love this conference, as it’s got something for all areas of interest. With such a diverse group of speakers, Weapons of War will appeal to arms collectors, historians, educators, museum professionals, living historians and the generally curious.

What kind of base knowledge should participants have? If they’re just getting into military weaponry, where might they get a precursor?

A basic understanding of the late colonial wars, the men who fought them, and the arms they carried would help. A good place to start would be our new exhibit “To Arm Against An Enemy; Weapons of the Revolutionary War,” which opened at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg this spring.

Can you tell us a bit about the cadre of speakers?

Our group of speakers was carefully chosen to represent many different aspects of 18th-century weaponry, from their collection to the proper way one deals with some pretty serious condition and conservation issues. Additionally, some of our speakers will explore the archaeology of the War while others will discuss arms & accouterments with fantastic histories and provenance.

We’re talking about weaponry used 300 years ago. Can you explain how there are things we’re still learning about the arms? What questions are we still trying to answer?

Now that we’re in the digital age, all sorts of records and documents are finding their way online. This allows for new discoveries about the 18th-century military, and what stuff they used, to be made all of the time. Ditto for archaeology, which consistently improves what we know about the period. It is certainly true that we only really “know” a small portion of what we’d really like to know about Revolutionary War weapons and accouterments. This is a great motivator to keep the research going!

What is special about this conference that you can’t get at any other?

I know I’m bragging here, but no other museum in the world can offer what Colonial Williamsburg has available to our conference participants. In addition to the chance to chat and socialize with our lineup of star speakers, the special hands-on programs our Military Programs and Historic Trades has in store can only be described as unique opportunities.

See how weapons are made in Historic Trades Shops with master craftspeople.

Hands-on activities with our Military Programs are hard to beat.

Conference participants receive admission tickets to Colonial Williamsburg with their registration. What places would you recommend weapon enthusiasts visit in the Historic Area?

There is so much to choose from! Colonial Williamsburg offers the chance to look and experience these arms from their creation to their actual use. Like a well-balanced diet, I’d recommend a healthy sampler platter of these early firearms:

  1. Start with the exhibition that inspired this conference, TO ARM AGAINST AN ENEMY, WEAPONS OF THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR at THE ART MUSEUMS OF COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG to see some of the finest original arms of the period.
  2. Then head to the GUNSMITH shop to see how flintlocks were handmade during the late 18th century. From forging barrels to inlaying silver wire, they do it all.
  3. At the PUBLIC ARMOURY, you will see where Virginia repaired arms and made ammunition during the Revolutionary War.
  4. When you stop by the GEDDY FOUNDRY, you will learn how molten brass is cast into gun hardware.
  5. End your tour of flintlocks at the GOVERNOR’S PALACE to see the arms display with its 230 muskets, including 80 originals from the 18th century.

Meet Goldstein at the Weapons of War conference receptions when you join us for this exciting October 11 to 13 conference, made possible by our generous sponsor Pritzker Military Museum & Library. Register now.