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Conferences, Forums, and Workshops


The office of Conferences, Forums and Workshops presents a broad range of high-quality programs that address issues of historical and contemporary significance as well as focusing on the decorative arts, material culture, historic trades and horticulture. Colonial Williamsburg's skilled professionals are joined by distinguished members of the academic and professional communities to present these programs.

Join us for the Garden Symposium, Working Wood, the Antiques Forum, and other programs for a rewarding learning experience.

Please bookmark this site and check back frequently for new offerings. Special conference rates are available for programs at Colonial Williamsburg's official hotels. To make lodging and dining reservations, call 1-800-261-9530 Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Program Information and Online Registration


  • January 17-20 and 21-24

    Fine Wood Working logo

    Working Wood in the 18th Century
    The Pursuit of Happiness: Furniture for Leisure and Entertainment

    As work and other obligations allowed, 18th-century Americans sought leisure in any number of endeavors, both high and low. Whether social in nature — entertainments like dance, sport, drinking, and gambling — or private — engaging intellectual curiosities or seeking rest — these activities were central to the overlapping cultures of early America. For those who could afford it, these pursuits often led to the shops where woodworking artisans crafted the material culture of such pastimes.

    The 2016 symposium will focus on objects born of this interaction.

    Card tables were among the more conspicuous examples of leisure furniture and our featured guest, cabinetmaker Alfred Sharp, will demonstrate the work involved in a finely carved example from Philadelphia. The original table, part of Colonial Williamsburg's collection, will be on stage beside him. In fact, most of our program will feature people and objects from the Foundation. This year we are excited to feature two major forms for the first time: an upholstered easy chair attributed to the Williamsburg shop of Anthony Hay, reproduced by cabinet shop supervisor Kaare Loftheim with upholstery conservator Leroy Graves; and a free-standing architectural structure, a gazebo, fabricated by joiner Ted Boscana.

    Harpsichord maker Edward Wright will explore aspects of colonial musical life by demonstrating the materials and techniques used in the manufacture of a spinet, while cabinetmaker Bill Pavlak will build an adjustable music stand with tripod base. For a completely different woodworking perspective, cooper Jonathan Hallman will construct a coopered mahogany wine cooler which will contrast with the approach to the same form demonstrated by cabinetmaker Brian Weldy.

    Several curatorial presentations round out the offerings: a glimpse into the anatomy of an 18th-century billiard table, a look at wooden toys from the collection with curator Jan Gilliam, and a study of gentlemen's tools with independent scholar Jane Rees. Furniture curator Tara Chicirda will set the stage with an illustrated overview of the various pastimes and leisure activities that were popular in Colonial America along with the types of objects used in their pursuit. All of our presenters will focus on period tools and methods while close-up video monitoring will show these processes and objects in great detail.

    Once again, we will host a tool swap prior to the conference banquet as well as tours of our modern conservation labs, open to a limited number of guests.

    Published registration fees have been reduced.  Learn More

    Registration Information

  • Sideboard

    February 19-23

    68th Annual Colonial Williamsburg Antiques Forum
    Creating an American Identity:
    A Revolution in Decorative Arts, 1776-1826

    During the half century after the Revolution, American fine and decorative arts were subject to an astounding array of change. With the end of British rule, American merchants were finally free to trade directly with artisans in China and continental Europe. Advancing production technologies generated new varieties of textiles, ceramics, glass, and other media. Westward and southward shifts in America’s booming population blurred the lines of regional taste in furniture, art, and architecture. You are invited to learn more about this dynamic period in American material culture at the 68th annual Colonial Williamsburg Antiques Forum, Creating an American Identity: A Revolution in Decorative Arts, 1776-1826.

    The 2016 Forum will gather acclaimed curators, collectors, and scholars from across the United States to share their most recent findings and insights. Scheduled speakers include Philip Zea, president of Historic Deerfield, Massachusetts, Matthew Thurlow of the Decorative Arts Trust, and Louisiana scholar H. Parrott Bacot.

    In addition to the formal program, Forum guests may register for optional hands-on workshops with the Colonial Williamsburg collections and private tours of historic homes in the region. Addressing American decorative arts from Maine to Georgia, this promises to be a memorable Forum. Please plan to join us February 19-23, 2016, for Creating an American Identity: A Revolution in Decorative Arts, 1776-1826.

    Registration Information

  • March 18-20

    Ales through the Ages

    Join us for a memorable weekend of beer and history. Since earliest times, humans have consumed some version of beer. As civilization progressed, so did brewing. Ales through the Ages offers a journey through the history of beer with some of the world's top beer scholars. We will explore ancient ales and indigenous beers of the past, examine the origins and consequences of industrial brewing, discover the ingredients brewers have used through time, and share a toast to brewers past! Speakers include beer writers Randy Mosher, Martyn Cornell, and Stan Hieronymus, brewmasters Karen Fortmann of White Yeast Labs and Mitch Steele of Stone Brewing Company, and a number of other experts and scholars. Don't miss your chance to have a glass from the past!

    Registration Information

  • Garden Club of VA
    AHS Logo
  • April 24 - 26
    (Note change in date)

    70th Colonial Williamsburg Garden Symposium
    Gardens We Call Home: Insights from the Trailblazers and Trendsetters

    Co-sponsored by the American Horticultural Society and the Garden Club of Virginia

    Join us as we celebrate our 70th anniversary with gardening friends both old and new! Guest presenters include trailblazers like the host of the popular TV garden show 'Growing a Greener World', Joe Lamp'l; nationally recognized author and lecturer Kerry Mendez; and the trendsetting horticulturists Brie Arthur and Kelly Norris. Come to Williamsburg next spring as these and other talented guest gardening experts and Colonial Williamsburg landscape professionals share practical information and provide inspiration for transforming your home garden into a personal oasis that is both visually and emotionally soothing. For its 70th anniversary, Garden Symposium will partner with the Garden Club of Virginia to offer a truly exciting gardening experience. A special focus will be given to art in the garden to complement the theme of The Garden Club of Virginia's Historic Garden Week. Lectures will discuss planting for architectural interest, plants with style, perennials, foliage plants, and foodscaping. Registrants will have the opportunity to tour Colonial Williamsburg's gardens and those on the Historic Garden Week tour. One-day or deluxe three-day tickets are available.

    Registration Information

  • September 16 - 18

    The Building Arts: From Foundations to Finishes

    The preservation of the nation's historic structures relies on scholarship, accurate and appropriate materials, and skilled craftsmen. Each component helps inform the other culminating in the stability and accurate portrayal of our built heritage. In the past two decades, new technology, research, as well as material and trades development have impacted the way we understand and care for our historic structures from their foundations to their finishes.

    This conference will gather leading architectural researchers, conservators, and craftsmen to discuss our understanding of 18th-century building technology, the replication of period building practices, and production of period appropriate materials. Attendees will hear about and see the process from the research phase to the live production of materials.

    In addition to the formal program, guests may register for optional hands-on workshops with several of the speakers. These workshops will address 18th-century paint making, masonry, and woodworking.


  • March 26-28

    Printed and Painted: Quilts, Clothing, and Curtains, 1600 - 1860

    With their brilliant colors and engaging designs, early painted and printed textiles were eagerly sought for fashionable clothing, quilts, and other home furnishings. But textiles also tell human stories that sound modern: traders transporting goods from the other side of the world in ships powered by wind and sails; domestic workers trying their best to respond to foreign competition; people making the effort to dress in up-to-date styles despite their limited means; and the importance of chemistry and mechanical expertise in the production of consumer goods. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in Williamsburg, Virginia, hosts this symposium about painted and printed textiles with invited speakers, exhibit tours, and juried papers. A call for 25-minute papers will go out in spring of 2016.

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
Post Office Box 1776
Williamsburg, VA 23187-1776

Fax: (757) 565-8921
Telephone: (757) 220-7255
Toll free: (800) 603-0948