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May 21, 2010

European gentry fancied early American flowers and animals

European men of means were often fascinated by the study of America’s flora and fauna. Margaret Pritchard, Colonial Williamsburg curator of prints, maps and wallpaper, explores their role in commissioning naturalists to come to America to record the natural life in the colonies. The correspondence that was established between wealthy sponsors and the English colonists provides important insights into the world that they experienced here during the program, Colonial Gentlemen and the Study of America’s Natural History. Guests can enjoy this hour-long program at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 27 at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.

In her role as curator of prints, maps and wallpaper, Pritchard acquires new objects for the collections, conducts research in the area of her specialty and selects appropriate objects to hang on the walls of buildings in the Historic Area. In addition, she creates alternating exhibitions of the graphic collections to be displayed in the Wallace Museum.

Pritchard has lectured and published on numerous subjects. Her books include “William Byrd II and His Lost History: Engravings of the Americas” (1993); “Empire’s Nature: Mark Catesby’s New World Vision” (1998); and a comprehensive catalog of Colonial Williamsburg’s map collection, “Degrees of Latitude: Mapping Colonial America” (2002). “A Protracted View: The Relationship between Mapmakers and Naturalists in Recording the Land” in “Curious in our Way: The Culture of Nature in Philadelphia, 1740-1840” will be published in fall 2010 by Yale University Publications.

She also has published several articles on English natural history artists, Mark Catesby and George Edwards, the graphics in the collections at the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, Pennsylvania cartographers and naturalists, as well as several articles on 18th-century wallpaper.

The May 27 presentation is part of an 11-month series celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Wallace Museum. Programs are scheduled monthly through December 2010.

The Wallace Café in the soaring central atrium court of the museum is open for the purchase of light fare, a glass of wine or a cold beer until 6:30 p.m. on the night of the lecture.

A Colonial Williamsburg admissions ticket, museum pass or Good Neighbor Card provides access to this lecture.

Dates and topics of upcoming lectures include:

Thursday, June 17

  • Antiques, Copies, & Fakes: When Old Chairs Multiply. Eighteenth-century chairs are in high demand, but they aren’t always what they seem. Tara Chicirda, Colonial Williamsburg curator of furniture, discusses the differences between genuine antiques, old copies and outright fakes.

Thursday, July 22

  • “A tolerable advantageous Business”: The Varied Career of Paul Revere. Janine Skerry, Colonial Williamsburg curator of metals, explores the life and work of Boston silversmith and Revolutionary War patriot Paul Revere.

Thursday, Aug. 26

  • Dirty Old Dishes: Archaeology, Ceramics, and Historic Interiors. Suzanne Hood, Colonial Williamsburg associate curator of ceramics and glass, explores the role of historical archaeology in creating the accurate interior settings we see in today’s house museums.

Thursday, Sept. 23

  • Three Centuries of Quilts in America. From whole cloth to patchwork to crazy quilts, Linda Baumgarten, Colonial Williamsburg curator of textiles and costumes, looks at quilts in America from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

Thursday, Oct. 21

  • George Washington Sipped Here: Tea and Liberty in 18th-century Virginia. Ceramics expert and Colonial Williamsburg products manager Liza Gusler explores the ritual of tea drinking in colonial Virginia.

Thursday, Nov. 18

  • A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Using Prints to Re-create the Past. Laura Barry, Colonial Williamsburg associate curator of prints, maps and paintings, explores the role of 18th-century prints and other graphics in revealing the day-to-day lives of early Americans.

Thursday, Dec. 16

  • Decking the Halls: The Evolution of Holiday Decoration at Historic Sites. Amanda Rosner, Colonial Williamsburg assistant curator of historic interiors, looks at Christmas decorations in the house museum and reveals what is fact and what is fancy.

Programs and exhibitions at The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum are supported by the DeWitt Wallace Endowment Fund.

The Wallace Museum, which opened in 1985, features 15 galleries in 25,000 square feet of exhibition space as well as an auditorium and a café. The museum houses the Foundation’s renowned collection of British and American fine and decorative arts dating from 1600 through 1830. Featured in regularly changing exhibitions, these include the world’s largest collection of Southern furniture; nationally important holdings in English silver and pewter; a vast collection of 18th-century clothing and textiles; and one of the largest collections of British ceramics outside England. Masterworks and period pieces acquired for Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area exhibition buildings bolster the museum’s holdings in furniture, metals, ceramics, glass, paintings, prints, maps, tools, weapons, numismatics and textiles.

The award-winning Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is the oldest institution in the United States dedicated solely to the collection and preservation of American folk art and is located adjacent to the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. Exhibits feature paintings, drawings, furniture, ceramics, whirligigs, weather vanes, carvings, toys, quilts, musical instruments and other folk works representing many diverse cultural traditions and geographic regions. John D. Rockefeller Jr. established the museum in 1957 in honor of his wife, Abby, and her love of folk art.

The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg are located at 326 W. Francis St. in Williamsburg, Va., and are entered through the Public Hospital of 1773. Operating hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. For museum program information, telephone (757) 220-7724.

Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational and cultural institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women.

Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s website at

Media Contact:
Penna Rogers
(757) 220-7121