The Art Museums

Williamsburg Travel Blog

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at the restroom in the Visitor Center

The current entrance to the museums is through the Public Hospital.  This brick building served as a mental institution for over 100 years.  An exhibit on the main level looks at how the treatment of the mentally ill evolved over those decades, how at first the patients were treated little better than prisoners, then as they were given more freedoms and privileges, and then how the treatment became more confining again although not to the original levels.

To enter the art museums, we went down a long flight of stairs and through a short hallway past a gift shop.  We came out in a skylight atrium with the folk art on the right and the decorative arts on the left.

We began our tour with the folk art, the first exhibit being one on chinaware: display cases filled with plates and cups in quite a range of patterns and colors.  A TV showed how some of the pieces were made.  Our walk through the rest of this museum was in a bit of a reverse order from most visitors, I think, because we veered towards the musical instruments (both of us the products of years of band).

Ursulina says:
Hello, was a ticket or pass needed to see this museum? Was at at Colonial Williamsburg?

~ Ursulina
heading to Williamsburg 7/3 - 7/5
Posted on: Jun 30, 2009
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Lord Dunmore

My friend Kate nannies for a family whose grandma lives in that area and had offered a place to stay for free; knowing my penchant for history, she asked if I wanted to go.  Of course, I said yes but our schedules didn't match up until this Labor Day weekend.  She drove down to MD from PA on Friday night; Saturday morning armed with printed directions, a bag of pretzels and one of Twizzlers, and a full tank of gas.

Three hours and several snacks later, we arrived at the Williamsburg Visitor Center where we purchased tickets and then hopped on the shuttle to the historic town.  After getting off the bus at the Capitol, we joined the crowd waiting for the beginning of the first re-enactment of the day.

  Men and women in period dress mingled, striking up conversation and answering questions about the issues of 1775.  An outrider on a brown horse stirred interest which heightened with the arrival of a carriage bearing Lord Dunmore, governor of the area.

Dressed in a deep red overcoat, Lord Dunmore walked out onto a balcony of the brick Capitol to address the crowd.  He spoke of the Boston Tea Party, the decision by Parliament to close the Harbor, and the proposal by the patriots for a day of fasting.  He urged listeners not to participate in the fast, a request met with mixed opinions.

Kate and I then wandered down the street where we visited the apothecary shop, wandered in a backyard or two, watched a basket maker, and listened to an exchange between a mother determined to stand by her Loyalist husband and a daughter torn between her father and brother's views.

uh oh, Kate's locked up!
  The two women interacted well, making the family conflicts of the time come to life.

After watching the exchange, Kate and I backtracked to the Shield's Tavern.  It had just opened so we were some of the first diners to enter the basement.  The cool air was welcome, our waitress friendly, the food ok.   My sandwich was filling although a bit salty; the potato wedges were really good.  We also enjoyed a short visit from a re-enactor who stopped at each table to ask where we were from and how we were enjoying our visit.

Following our tavern lunch, we walked over to the Capitol building and entered for a tour.  This brick structure is basically two separate buildings with a bridge joining them.  Each building has a lower room with a rounded end; three large windows in that wall let along with more rectangular windows on the side walls let in light.

see the hatchet?
  Portraits of important political leaders (aka British rulers) decorate the room.  During the American revolution, only the portrait of the current English king was removed from the walls.  The bridge connecting the two buildings (the two houses of the legislative branch) provided a room for negotiations and compromise on issues.

Kate called the grandma when we finished our tour to verify how late we could arrive at her house that evening.  Then we walked over to the Gaol which was the jail.  We entered the small front room and peeked into the private bedroom of the jailer.  Our guide speedtalked through his speech before sending us out to the back and four cells (some of which still had the original back walls).  Kate and I compared the size of the cells to our dorm rooms in college.

dinner anyone?
..we're not sure if they were bigger.  The bathroom facilities for the prisoners were a bit scary but at least they were assured of a maximum sentence of one year.  We grabbed our freedom and headed over to the bakery where Kate indulged in another root beer and I enjoyed apple cider.  Kate also bought some gingerbread to take home.

We continued our visit at the Magazine with its walls covered in guns.  We stopped by the Guardhouse and got a chance to throw very light hatchets at a faux enemy.  The idea was to knock the hat off; I wasn't even close :)

With the courthouse closed for maintenance, we scotted up the road to the Randolph House where only a few minutes ago emergency vehicles with flashing lights had created an unusual scene (someone had passed out; the day was hot).

  We were disappointed in our tour here.  It had a neat idea: to give each visitor a card with an identity of an inhabitant of the house, either the owner, his wife, or one of their many slaves.  However, we were disappointed in our tour guide.  He seemed nervous and had a jarring speech pattern.  I enjoyed looking at the wallpaper in the different formal rooms, it was an elaborate design especially in the stairwell.  The dinner layout varied quite a bit from most tables today: the food still looked like its original animal, whole fish, the whole head of the animal.  Not as appetizing to me...  The end of the tour took us to the laundry and kitchen area and where the slave children would have been taught to read and write by the oldest female slave (whose card I had been given ironically enough).
  We were allowed to walk around the backyard area freely.  If you want to get more of a feel of life in those days, buckets of water sit by the well; you can carry the bucket to the kitchen and back to get an idea of the work involved.  After leaving the backyard, we took a few pictures of the windmill and the long-horned cows grazing nearby (even though I grew up in a semi-rural area, I had no idea that females could have such long horns!).

Kate stopped to buy a water and then we headed into the Governor's Palace.  We started in a room in one of the side buildings and then cut into the front yard and up the main steps.  The entrance hall induced a sense of awe with its walls covered in guns and swords--exactly the effect wanted by the governor.

in the apothecary's shop
  However, the intimidation factor only lasted until the revolution at which time the weaponry was removed to prevent the governor from using them to arm a force against the rebellious colonists (another possible account claims that the citizens of Williamsburg actually used the weapons to chase the governor out of town).  The military-inspired decorating followed us up the stairwell (I liked the pattern on the wooden landing).  The bedrooms were softer with canopy beds and beautifully-tiled fireplaces.  Back downstairs we looked at the dining room and the ballroom (painted in blue with gold gilding).  The chandeliers in this room were gorgeous.  Accompanied by music, we headed into the last room, another dining area--this one painted a bright green--reserved only for special occasions.
 

We exited into the back gardens of the house.  We wandered through a small maze and past some flower beds before finding the kitchen.  Here I was suprised to discover that the foods on display were real, actually prepared on sight (the flies buzzing around made more much sense at that point).  We finished our walk with a short trip down into the cellars where the temperature drop was quite welcome.

With the 5:00 closing time quickly approaching, we squeezed in one more tour, the Wythe House.  This one opened with a short speech in the garden; the rest of the time was ours to wander the property.  We walked past growing peppers and watermelons and paused to watch the basketmakers.  Inside the house we peeked into the various rooms which included another green dining room and an office with jars containing animal specimans.

We finished our visit to the historic area by just walking down the street and enjoying the atmosphere.  However, our time in Williamsburg was not yet complete since our tickets included the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museums just around the corner.

at the restroom in the Visitor Cen…
at the restroom in the Visitor Ce…
Lord Dunmore
Lord Dunmore
uh oh, Kates locked up!
uh oh, Kate's locked up!
see the hatchet?
see the hatchet?
dinner anyone?
dinner anyone?
in the apothecarys shop
in the apothecary's shop
basket making
basket making
a tavern sign
a tavern sign
mother and daughter discussion of …
mother and daughter discussion of…
wigmakers sign
wigmaker's sign
Capitol building tower
Capitol building tower
fife and drum corps
fife and drum corps
legislative chamber
legislative chamber
from the jail (gaol)
from the jail (gaol)
sheep
sheep
silversmith
silversmith
milliner
milliner
the Magazine
the Magazine
if you really dont like your neig…
if you really don't like your nei…
oops!
oops!
carriage going past the Randolph H…
carriage going past the Randolph …
wallpaper close up in Randolph Hou…
wallpaper close up in Randolph Ho…
in the stairwell
in the stairwell
firescreen embrodiery
firescreen embrodiery
kitchen
kitchen
iron and soap
iron and soap
windmill
windmill
I didnt think cows had horns this…
I didn't think cows had horns thi…
feeding time
feeding time
Governors Palace
Governor's Palace
looking out from Governors Palace…
looking out from Governor's Palac…
pantry
pantry
entrance hall of palace
entrance hall of palace
above the bed
above the bed
fireplace decal
fireplace decal
desserts
desserts
wall decal
wall decal
above the back door
above the back door
center of the maze
center of the maze
gardens
gardens
kitchen of palace
kitchen of palace
syllabub
syllabub
in the cellars
in the cellars
more cellar
more cellar
garden at Whythe(?) House
garden at Whythe(?) House
church
church
comparing my height to one of the …
comparing my height to one of the…
33 km (21 miles) traveled
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photo by: Andy99