Jamestown, the site of the first permanent English settlement in America, is a museum of 17th-century life with exhibits that chronicle the first century of the Virginia colony. In 1607, 13 years before the Mayflower arrived at Plymouth Rock, a group of 104 Englishmen began a settlement on the banks of Virginia’s James River.
The story of Jamestown’s founders and the Virginia Indians they encountered is told at Jamestown Settlement through gallery exhibits and outdoor living history museums: a re-created Powhatan Indian village, replicas of the three ships that landed in 1607, a representation of the colonial fort, and a riverfront discovery area that explores waterway transportation and commercial activities.
Hands-on activities make Jamestown a great travel destination for kids. Historical interpreters provide interactive demonstrations of daily activities and technology of the 17th century. Visitors are invited to grind corn, climb into a dugout canoe, steer with a whipstaff or tiller, examine the contents of a “see” chest, try on armor, take an inventory of supplies, play quoits and ninepins, and experience a variety of other activities.
Visitors can expect to spend about three hours at Jamestown Settlement, which is a part of what’s known as America’s Historic Triangle, including:
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Jamestown Visitor Center and MuseumA new Visitor Center opened in 2006, featuring an indoor theater and gallery exhibits that chronicle the nation’s 17th-century beginnings in Jamestown, Virginia. An introductory film, “1607: A Nation Takes Root,” is shown at regular intervals providing an overview of how the Powhatan Indian, English and African cultures impacted the Jamestown Settlement. Exhibits include portraits, documents, furnishings, toys, ceremonial and decorative objects, tools and weapons, and hundreds of Virginia archaeological artifacts.
The Visitor Center also has a 36,000-square-foot education wing, two museum gift shops, classrooms, an open atrium for public events, offices and a 190-seat café.
Powhatan Indian VillageAfter viewing the indoor exhibits, visitors arrive at the Powhatan Indian village, an outdoor re-creation of a site once inhabited by Paspahegh Indians, the Powhatan tribal group closest to Jamestown. The village consists of several houses made of sapling frames covered with reed mats, a garden and a ceremonial dance circle. Historical interpreters discuss and demonstrate the Powhatan way of life. They grow and prepare food, process animal hides, make tools and pottery, and weave natural fibers.
Jamestown Riverfront Discovery Area and ShipsFrom the Powhatan village, a path leads to a pier where replicas of the three ships that transported the original Jamestown colonists to Virginia in 1607 are docked. Visitors can board and explore the Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery and talk with interpreters about the four-and-a-half-month voyage from England. There are periodic demonstrations of piloting and navigation, cargo handling and sail making.
A Riverfront Discovery Area highlights the role of the James River and other waterways in 17th-century travel, commerce and cultural exchange, reflecting Powhatan Indian, European and African traditions. Discovery stations provide information about water transportation and economic activities, including navigation, boatbuilding, fishing, commodities and trade.