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"Jamestown 2007" Events Are Already Making History In Virginia

by Hal Gieseking

"We had built and finished our fort, which was triangle-wise, having three bulwarks at every corner like a half-moon," George Percy wrote several months after 104 English men and boys had disembarked on a swampy island on the James River in Virginia on May 13, 1607. That first year only 38 would survive diseases, brackish water, Indian raids and starvation, never imagining they had founded a new nation or that 400 years later their achievement would be celebrated in a series of concerts, exhibitions and new attractions in Virginia under the banner, "Jamestown 2007."

As the English settlers were sailing toward the New World, the wildly erratic and wildly talented artist Caravaggio had just killed an opponent over a "foul" call during a tennis match in Rome. Four hundred years later his massive "Still Life on a Stone Ledge" would be one of the highlights of Old Masters paintings from the Medici Collection that just opened at the Muscarelle Museum on the campus of the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg.

A few years later a young English girl (name unknown) responded to announcements that women were needed as future wives and mothers for the all-male Fort at Jamestown. She packed her limited belongings in a canvas bag and arrived with a small group of other husband-seeking women in 1619. How could she know that one day her hopeful face would greet visitors to the new Archaearium (archeology museum) in the National Park on Jamestown Island. It had been restored by forensic scientists from her skull found preserved in mud near the Fort. This new museum, now open, offers views of more than 1,000 recovered artifacts bring to life the stories of how the early settlers lived.

On March 9, 2007 the Civil War's most famous sea battle comes back to roaring life at the Mariners' Museum's USS Monitor Exhibition. The ironclads, the Union's Monitor and the Confederate's Merrimac, flung cannon balls that bounced off each other as harmless as ping pong balls. You will see all this in the Battle Theatre with the floor reverberating to the sounds of gunfire. Later you can view remains of the Monitor (which sank a few months after the inconclusive battle in a sudden Atlantic squall) on display, including the turret, anchor and even mustard bottles (used by the crew to disguise the taste of un-refrigerated meats). The Mariner's Museum is located in Newport News, VA.

The Jamestown Settlement (with re-creations of the original Jamestown Fort, an Indian village, and of the three ships that delivered the first settlers) has now opened 30,000 feet of new galleries with life-size buildings and exhibits. Here you can walk through a 1607 London street scene with the sounds of a horse-drawn carriage clopping toward you on the cobblestone street, and then stroll into a typical Planter's House. Along the way you will see statues of many historic figures and artifacts from the three cultures that blended on the tiny Jamestown island - English, American Indian, and African. Later in 2007 "The World of 1607" will open with paintings, antiques and weapons dating back four centuries will also open at the Jamestown Settlement.

About The Author
This information is from the Virginia Hospitality Suite website - http://www.virginiahospitalitysuite.com, written by Hal Gieseking. His former positions include serving as Consumer Editor of the Reader's Digest's Travel Holiday magazine and Travel Consultant for CBS Morning News.

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