Over the years, Colonial Williamsburg has established itself as a leading steward of our nation’s history, as illuminated by the millions of American artifacts that the Foundation owns, conserves and displays. Generations of archaeologists have discovered new objects throughout Williamsburg while curators have acquired art and antiques from around the country—and the world. The Foundation now maintains a remarkable assortment of collections, including 72,000 antiques and works of art, 15,000 architectural objects and 60 million archaeological artifacts. These collections feature some of the best examples of American and British fine, decorative, mechanical and folk art and offer a wide selection of rich resources for scholars and casual learners alike.
These items are showcased at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, together known as the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, illustrating our nation’s founding era and providing visitors with a tangible link to America’s earliest years. Each exhibition and display illuminates the American identity and the global influences that have shaped it over centuries. Through the meticulous work of our curators, conservators and archaeologists, Colonial Williamsburg paints a remarkably nuanced picture of 18th-century life.
The stories brought to life by Colonial Williamsburg are grounded in research and reflect our commitment to the honest portrayal of our nation’s history. Talented interpreters, an unrivaled setting and engaging programs come together for an unforgettable experience, none of which would be possible without access to objects from the past—objects that teach us about the people who lived in colonial Virginia and made ours a story worth telling. We continually evaluate our collections, exhibitions and museum programs to ensure that guests deepen their understanding of American history and citizenship with each visit. In the years to come, we will modernize our facilities to meet and exceed these standards, and curate new exhibitions that encourage guests to return time and again.
We are pleased to announce that Upholstery CSI: Reading the Evidence, an exhibition that opened in 2018 and featured the work of senior upholstery conservator Leroy Graves, received an Excellence in Exhibition Award from the American Alliance of Museums.
The Foundation has several new exhibitions for 2019, including Farms and Faith: The Art of Edward Hicks, To Arm Against an Enemy: Weapons of the Revolution, American Folk Pottery, Made and Used in Williamsburg and English Goods Were Ever the Best: The Arts of Britain.
We also have six exciting exhibitions planned for 2020, but cannot proceed with planning until the full amount for each has been raised. “O Blessed Rest:” Sleep and Status in Early America remains unfunded at $45,000.
In 2017, the Foundation obtained the most comprehensive collection of early Virginia maps outside the Library of Congress. This magnificent acquisition will allow us to illustrate the changing landscape of colonial America. We are working to endow the curatorial position that supports this collection. Endowing the curator of maps and prints through a pooled fund guarantees that the new map collection will be maintained and displayed for the benefit of guests and scholars alike. The total cost of endowing the position is $1.5 million. To date we have raised nearly $1 million.
Expansion and renovation of the Art Museums is well under way, funded entirely by donors. The new wing is under roof, exterior walls are being closed in and mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems are well advanced. Masonry work on the east arcades is done, and foundations for the entry pavilion are in place. Final steel work is under way. We expect to shift public access to Nassau Street this fall so that work can begin on the Public Hospital lower level. All substantial construction is slated to be completed in October 2019 with a grand reopening scheduled for April 2020.
In May 2019, the Hennage Auditorium reopened after it closed in January for major renovations. These improvements included new acoustical paneling, expanded backstage storage, performer green rooms and better theater lighting. The auditorium has a full lineup of programs for the remainder of the year.