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The Archaearium, a word meaning “a place of beginnings,” symbolizes Jamestown’s role in the English settling of North America


Exterior of the Natalie P. and Alan M. Vorhees Archaearium at Jamestown Rediscovery.


story of Jamestown, dispelling myths and validating theories. Uncovered from the sand and clay have risen fascinating stories of the founding years; a narrative rich with hope, loss, privation, desperation, fortitude, enterprise, societal challenges, and the political nexus for the formation of a democratic society in America. Jamestown has been rated as one of the


December 1606, they were unaware of the cultural, social, and political impacts upon which they were about to engage. The tangible goods they brought with them would eventually lie buried, in well shafts, basements, and graves; surfacing piecemeal from time to time, until excavations by the APVA (now Preservation Virginia) began in earnest in 1994 under the direction of Dr. William Kelso, Director of Archeology. With two million artifacts recovered


since, the dedicated staff of Jamestown Rediscovery continues to write the


The House & Home Magazine


top ten archeological discoveries in the world three times over the past seventeen years by the Archeological Institute of America. In 2010 for the discovery of the remains of the earliest Protestant church in North America; in 2013 for uncovering evidence of cannibalism during the ‘starving time’; and in 2015 for the analyses of remains found in four previously excavated graves found in the chancel of the original 1608 church that identified four prominent members of Jamestown’s early leadership. No other archaeological site in America can make this claim. The Archaearium, a word meaning


“a place of beginnings,” symbolizes Jamestown’s role in the English settling of North America. Built in 2006, the museum was designed by the Williamsburg architectural firm Carlton Abbott & Partners. It bears the names of philanthropists Natalie P. and Alan M. Vorhees, whose generous donation helped make the museum possible. The museum’s distinctive modern


style is a departure from the architecture so familiar to visitors of the Historic Triangle. The building is clad in copper, a


sustainable alternative, and a purposeful nod to the metal that was so important to trade between early colonists and the native Powhatan peoples. The structure incorporates green technology— geothermal heating and cooling, lower water consumption, and interior use of natural light. Two of the building’s riverfront sections are composed almost entirely of glass, providing expansive views of the James River and a visual connection to the fort site itself. Constructed on special load-bearing


micro-piles and structural cantilevers, architects were able to design a 7500 sq. foot structure on an approximately 5000 square foot “clean” site, meaning archeological investigations had been conducted but not necessarily removed. That becomes evident when viewing sections of the Statehouse’s brick footings through the portals. Contrasting floor finishes trace the foundation’s twists, turns, and stairwells, reminding visitors of what lies beneath. Entering the museum’s lobby, Jamie


May, Senior Staff Archeologist, and Michael Lavin, Senior Staff Conservator, guide us clockwise through a series of galleries that eventually culminates at the gift shop. Each gallery tells a story of those early years, using display items recovered from the fort site, careful reconstructions and reproductions, subtle art panels, and informational placards. Visitors are not distracted by music or heavy narration, inviting quiet contemplation.


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