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Jamestown’s Archaearium “A Place of Beginnings”


By Deb Weissler


Photos courtesy of Jamestown Rediscovery


Archaearium displays. Lighter areas on the floor show outline of Statehouse foundation walls beneath the museum.


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tep inside the Natalie P. and Alan M. Vorhees Archaearium and a reverent hush is palpable. The museum’s interior design-


er, Bill Haley of Haley Sharpe Design, calls it “power of place”; an almost magical feeling that one has stepped back in time to a place of beginnings whose


story is still ongoing. Perhaps it’s the large glass viewing portals in the floor that


remind visitors they are standing atop the remains of the third and fourth Statehouse, Virginia’s colonial capitol from1665- 1699, a reminder that this museum does not sit on virgin soil. Beyond the expansive windows that look out over the river, sits the original site of James Fort, where 220,000 annual visitors


can witness events as dynamic today as they were more than 400 years ago. In his book Mayflower, award-winning author Nathaniel Philbrick couldn’t have been more wrong when he wrote, “Jamestown, founded in 1607, could hardly be counted a success.” Instead, he is just one more voice that has contributed to the competing myths regarding the origins of our country. To many, it was the Pilgrims who founded America at Plymouth years later. Ask a cross-sample of folks when the colonization of


Jamestown began and the date 1607 immediately comes to mind. Ask when it ended and they hesitate. Didn’t they all die in 1609? Wasn’t the fort deserted in 1610? Weren’t they slaughtered by Indians in 1622? These false perceptions have muddied the story of Jamestown for generations. When 104 male settlers boarded three ships near London in


May/June 2017


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