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October 28, 2011

Art Museums Presentation Examines How Slaves Preserved African Traditions, Beliefs

Author Martha Katz-Hyman examines how individuals successfully preserved African traditions and beliefs, often adapting them to their new home, during the program, “The World of a Slave.” The presentation takes place at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3 at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museums, 326 W. Francis St.

Based on the two-volume “World of a Slave: Encyclopedia of the Material Life of Slaves in the United States,” the lecture discusses how enslaved blacks retained some private realm that included toys, musical instruments, clothing, jewelry and distinctive hair styles. Objects and practices can impart at least some understanding of the day-to-day lives of these men, women and children.

From 1985 to 2005, Katz-Hyman began as an assistant curator and was promoted to associate curator in Colonial Williamsburg’s collections department. She worked primarily with the mechanical arts collection, kitchen equipment and musical instruments, and was responsible for the furnishing of outbuildings, trade shops and slave quarters. She was the department's specialist in the material culture of 18th-century Tidewater Virginia slaves. From 2005 to 2008 she was architectural fellow and then project manager in the Foundation’s architectural collections and conservation department. In the latter position, she was responsible for managing the preventive maintenance program for Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area exhibition buildings and trade shops.

She currently is an independent curator working on furnishing projects in Trenton, N.J., and Fairfax County, Va. She also is working on interpretive planning for one of three major history exhibits for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and is co-editor of World of a Slave: Encyclopedia of the Material Life of Slaves in the United States, published by Greenwood/ABC-CLIO in January 2011.

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

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

Colonial Williamsburg’s African American programming has been made possible by the generous support of the National Endowment of Humanities, Mr. and Mrs. Richard D. Parsons, Douglas N. Morton and Marilyn L. Brown, the Norfolk Southern Corporation, the Charles E. Culpeper Endowments in Arts and Culture of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Altria Client Services, AT&T, Philip Morris, and IBM.

The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg include the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is home to the nation’s premier collection of American folk art, with more than 5,000 folk art objects made during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum exhibits the best in British and American decorative arts from 1670–1830.

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

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational and cultural organization 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