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Collections Conservation and Museums

collections, CONSERVATION and Museums

Objects from the Past

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.


Initiatives and Accomplishments


  • 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.


Funding Needs


Collections, Conservation and Museums initiatives have been made possible by the generosity of our donors. Thank you for supporting The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and for considering additional contributions for the following projects:

Special Endowment Opportunities

  • $3 million to create an acquisitions endowment fund
  • $3 million to create an exhibitions endowment fund
  • $1.5 million to fund each of our nine conservation labs (or $13,500,000 for all)
  • $1.5 million to endow a curator’s position
  • Contributions of all sizes are welcome for the Curator of Maps and Prints Endowment, an endowment for a permanent position.

Naming Opportunities in the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg

  • $1.5 million to name the east arcade
  • $1 million to name the archaeological collections gallery, the architectural collections gallery or the introductory gallery
  • $250,000 to name the cloak and locker room or the design studio
  • $200,000 to name the exhibition fabrication shops or the Public Hospital lobby
  • $125,000 to name the communications control center or security and safety room
  • $100,000 to name the conservation studio, green room, mount studio, north or south costume studio, staff room or volunteer training/conference room
  • $50,000 to name the art studio supply room or textile washing and drying room
  • $25,000 to name the auditorium coat room

Top Priorities

  • $250,000 for acquisitions
  • $200,000 to fund exhibitions in 2020 and 2021
    • $45,000 to fund "O Blessed Rest": Sleep and Status in Early America in 2020
  • $56,000 for high-resolution imaging equipment to create interactive historic map visualization stations
  • $35,000 for specialized preservation equipment (two opportunities available)
  • $13,500 for a multispectral camera and associated equipment used by our conservators
  • $10,000 to place a bench in your name at the expanded Art Museums (36 available)
  • $10,000 to fashion reproduction gilt frames for original 18th-century paintings in the collection
  • $10,000 for a Mac computer station with camera connection for the Collections photo studio
  • $8,000 for reproductions to be used by interpreters in the Historic Area