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An artist rendering of James Fort over present day Jamestown Island. Long thought to have washed away into the river, most of the fort remains are on dry land.


Beginning with the first colonists’ arrival in May 1607, the


galleries proceed chronologically through the major stages of the Jamestown story—Jamestown Venture, James Fort, Life and Death, Influence and Industry, World of Pocahontas, Daily Life, Survival, Holy Ground, Foods and First Houses, An Early Well, and End of an Era. The artifacts on display do much to dispel the image of


indolent noblemen who were strangers to physical exertion, and whose only interest was finding gold and personal wealth. Mostly English, they came from diverse backgrounds, from aristocracy to unskilled laborers. Artifacts show the presence of skilled and highly trained individuals--physicians and surgeons, professional soldiers, coopers, blacksmiths, coppersmiths, tailors, bricklayers, glassmakers, metallurgists, carpenters, masons, and even a jeweler. Indian artifacts provide evidence of cohabitation within the fort. The Virginia Company’s instructions were clear: find a strong,


highly defensible, fertile location with a town site on navigable water near a river channel that would enable ships easy access to shore. A fort was to be constructed, crops planted, expeditions mounted to seek out precious metals, homes built, ships secured to prevent anyone from leaving the colony, letters censored to delete discouraging text, and God to be served and feared. It was a daunting list, but the Virginia Company’s


shareholders expected immediate returns on their investments. The buried records show that despite seemingly overwhelming obstacles and setbacks, the Jamestown settlers did their best to follow those instructions, even when they led to regrettable consequences.


72 May/June 2017


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