at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum
China of the Most Fashionable Sort:
Chinese Export Porcelain in Colonial America
Chinese export porcelain played an important role in the lives of 18th-century colonists. It was the most desirable of the ceramic bodies, and possessing it indicated wealth and status. This exhibit illustrates the wide variety of Chinese porcelain that was available in colonial America with a particular focus on pieces with histories in Virginia. Objects recovered from archaeological excavations are also featured.
Opens March 19, 2014 – ongoing exhibition
A Rich and Varied Culture:
The Material World of the Early South
This wide-ranging new exhibition celebrates the remarkable arts and antiques that were created in or imported to the Chesapeake, the Carolina Low Country, and Southern Backcountry. Created in conjunction with two dozen partner institutions and private collectors, the exhibition highlights the aesthetic diversity brought to the region by the varied cultures and ethnic groups that ultimately defined a unique, early southern style.
The exhibition was made possible by Carolyn and Michael McNamara.
Threads of Feeling
Discover the stories told by simple scraps of fabric - tokens left to identify the babies at London's Foundling Hospital. When mothers left babies at London’s Foundling Hospital in the mid-18th century, the Hospital often retained a small token as a means of identification, usually a piece of fabric. Each scrap of material reflects the life of a single infant and that of its absent parent. Organized by the Foundling Museum and curated by John Styles, this will be the only American venue for this exhibition. The token-filled billet books are owned and lent by leading UK children’s charity Coram, which began as the Foundling Hospital, with the assistance of the City of London, London Metropolitan Archives.
The Colonial Williamsburg exhibition of Threads of Feeling is supported by the generosity of Mary and Clint Gilliland of Menlo Park, California, through the Turner-Gilliland Family Fund of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Elizabeth Moore Ruffin, Douglas N. Morton and Marilyn L. Brown of Englewood, Colorado, Berwick Offray LLC, and Mr. and Mrs. Richard C. Barnett.
Through May 26, 2014
Painters and Paintings in the Early American South
This groundbreaking exhibition brings together more than 80 significant paintings drawn from Colonial Williamsburg’s collection and those of major institutions across the United States to explore the rich history of art in the early South. The exhibition explores the stylistic trends of the period, comments on the lives of the sitters as the pursuit of gentility spread from the richest southerners to the middle class, and discusses the varying status and training of the painters. The story reveals the web of relationships connecting sitters, friends and relations, clients and artists, and other agents. The paintings represent work by a host of artists including Jeremiah Theus, Charles Willson Peale, John Singleton Copley, and Henry Benbridge. Painters and Paintings in the Early American South is accompanied by Juli Grainger curator Carolyn J. Weekley’s new book of the same title. Both were made possible by a generous gift from Juli and David Grainger and The Grainger Foundation of Lake Forest, Illinois.
Through September 7, 2014
View slideshow of images from the exhibit.
Keyboard Instruments for America, 1700–1830
This exhibition explores the evolution of spinets, harpsichords and pianos in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Featuring more than 25 instruments including spinets, harpsichords, and pianos, ranging in date from 1700 to 1830, the instruments are drawn from Colonial Williamsburg’s significant collection of English keyboards. Many have never before been exhibited. Keyboard instruments were an integral part of the cultural milieu of Virginia’s colonial and post-colonial period. The second known public performance on a piano in America took place at the Raleigh Tavern. The exhibit explores the differences in the various types of keyboards as well as the evolution of the instrument over time. Sound sticks allow you to listen to many of the instruments and two reproductions are included so that they can be played for visitors, for what is an instrument without its sound? Models of detailed aspects of the keyboard allow visitors further insight into the workings of the instruments.
Richard Newsham’s Fire Engine
Richard Newsham’s Fire Engine explores fire and fire fighting in the 18th century with the display of an original fire engine built in the mid-18th century. Williamsburg, described as "our Wooden city" in 1721, remained relatively safe until 1747 when the Capitol burned. The new Capitol was threatened in 1754. Wisely, the colony decided to invest in a proper fire engine, and the next month the Council directed "That the Receiver General send to London for a Fire Engine and Four Dozen of Leatheren Buckets for the use of the Capitol." Initially granted a patent on December 26, 1721, Richard Newsham’s “new water engine for quenching and extinguishing fires” became the clear choice for anyone in England or America who was serious about combating the flames. So effective were Newsham’s engines that some were used for more than a century. The original engine is on view for the first time.
This exhibition was made possible by a grant from the Ambrose and Ida Frederickson Foundation.
Dollars, Farthings & Fables: Money and Medals
from the Colonial Williamsburg Collection
This exhibition showcases some wonderful treasures from the numismatics collection, greatly enhanced through the generosity of the Lasser family. See the smallest and largest coins in the collection as well as the prettiest and ugliest. Find out about the first dollar bill, the medals that were produced to honor George Washington, and the first coins made in the New World. One of our newest acquisitions is an amazing collection of paper money that was amassed in the late 18th century by Samuel Cornell of North Carolina. Like other pieces in the exhibition, it has an interesting story to tell.
Through September 28, 2014
Rebuilding Charlton’s Coffeehouse
Colonial Williamsburg’s reconstruction of Charlton’s Coffeehouse is the first ground-up reconstruction along Duke of Gloucester Street in several decades. It involved the work of every department and trade in the Foundation. The exhibition explores how such a building could be so accurately constructed and furnished when seemingly very little was left of the original structure. It will use archaeological, architectural, archival, decorative arts and trades components to show visitors the process of rebuilding the history, structure, and interiors of the coffeehouse. Through video, graphics, original objects, and touchable reproductions, visitors learn firsthand what it took to bring the project to completion.
American Furniture: From Virginia to Vermont
This exhibition in the Elizabeth Ridgely and Miodrag Blagojevich Gallery highlights pieces from three regions: Eastern Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New England. While early furniture forms and styles from these areas were similar from the late 17th through the early 19th centuries, the interpretation and the popularity of designs varied due to differences in local economies, trade settlement patterns, and the religious and cultural backgrounds of the inhabitants.
Lock, Stock, and Barrel
This exhibition is an outstanding display of military and civilian weapons exploring muzzle-loading firearms, ignition systems, and the evolution of the standing British infantry musket before 1800.
Revolution in Taste
This exhibition dazzles with rich and colorful choices in table and tea wares available to 18th-century British and American consumers. Expanding world trade and strengthening industry put a teapot on every table -- until tea became a symbol of protest in the American Revolution.