By Bill Tolbert
For almost 50 years, visitors to the outdoor area at Jamestown Settlement have foundlittle between the re-created fort and the three replica ships.
Now, a new "Riverfront Discovery Area" portrays the role of the James Riverand other waterways in 17th-century travel, commerce and cultural exchange among theEnglish, Indians and Africans.
An 11-foot-wide pathway winds its way through the 2-acre area. Discovery stationsprovide information about water transportation and economic activities, such asnavigation, boat-building, fishing, commodities and trade.
The museum surveyed visitors to learn the types of activities that interested them. JoeGutierrez, senior director for museum operations and education, said that activitiesrelated to the cultures along the James topped the list.
The new area "foreshadows" the story the museum will tell in new galleriesunder construction for the 400th anniversary.
There's a new swivel-gun demonstration several times a day.
Hands-on learning includes scraping out logs to make dugout canoes.
Photos courtesy Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation "Jamestown and the early 17th century were shaped by three particular cultures ina dominant sense. This area shows that interaction," Gutierrez said. The tyingtogether of indoor galleries and outside activity areas has a long history at the museum.
"The inside galleries provide the intellectual framework," he said. "Theoutdoor areas provide a hands-on opportunity to experience history. This area adds a newdimension to the visitor experience."
Three existing outdoor areas -- the Indian village, fort and ships -- are moreculturally specific, he noted. "This provided a new dimension to how peopleinteracted, an area lacking in our outdoor experience." WHAT'S NEW
The riverfront discovery area and new buildings are part of a series of building projects and program changes planned for completion in time for 2007, the 400th anniversary of the landing of colonists at Jamestown.
For details, visit www.historyisfun.com or call 253-4838. Interpreters staff the area on a seasonal basis to work with visitors on hands-onlearning, such as scraping out logs to make dugout canoes or trading Powhatan Indian itemsfor European goods.
There's also a new swivel-gun demonstration several times a day in a field near thefort and Powhatan Indian village.
Swivel guns are small artillery pieces that were commonly used on ships and in lightfortifications during the 17th century.
The demonstrations are visitor-participatory, giving guests a chance to take part in a"dry fire" drill. The demonstration ends with museum interpretive staff actuallyfiring the weapon.
Regularly scheduled one-hour guided tours of the Indian village, ships, riverfront andfort areas run each day. In addition, other demonstrations and presentations are given onleadership, mapmaking, sail and cargo handling, and games.
Through Sept. 21, visitors can attend half-hour interactive programs indoors at noonand 1 p.m. Museum teachers will focus on three topics:
- "Cultures in Contact" on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays will compare and contrast the Powhatan Indian, English and African cultures that converged in Virginia in the 17th century.
- "Women in Early 17th-Century Virginia" on Mondays and Wednesdays will profile some of the women who lived in a predominantly male colony.
- "Clothing in 17th-Century Virginia" on Fridays reveals the function of various garments, and looks at how the style of clothing reflected the occupation and social status of the wearer.
Jamestown Settlement has closed its indoor exhibition galleries to make way for theconstruction of a new permanent exhibition building. A new transitional gallery will openearly next year to provide exhibition space before the main gallery opens in 2007.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times