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
400 Years of Chocolate: Aztec to Artisan
Come join us on a journey with one of the world’s favorite plants: cacao. We will discover the amazing paths through time and space that this plant and its products have traveled. From early uses as a ceremonial beverage and important crop in Mesoamerica, to its transformation to one of the most popular foodstuffs in the world, chocolate has crossed oceans, been carried up mountains, and even flown into outer space. How did the seeds of this humble plant become so popular?
Join Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Foodways staff, curators, and distinguished guest scholars as they explore how this plant is grown and processed and how the seeds are transformed into a product that conquers the food world. Learn how people of the past used and altered chocolate from a beverage into a candy and beyond.
Guest speakers will include Dr. Howard-Yana Shapiro, one of the world’s top cacao scientists. He is Global Director of Plant Science and External Research, Mars Incorporated, and Adjunct Professor in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, The University of California at Davis. Dr. Shapiro also helped map the cacao gene and is one of the foremost scholars in the field of cacao propagation. Dr. Michael Coe, Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, Yale University, will present the place of chocolate in early Mesoamerica. Ruby Fougère, Curator of Furnishings, Collections and Conservation Supervisor, Parks Canada, will complement a Foodway's staff presentation on chocolate in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe and North America, with a look at chocolate in French Canada. Dr. Deanna Pucciarelli, Program Director, Hospitality and Food Management Program, Ball State University, will explore how chocolate production methods evolved during the nineteenth century, and John and Tracy Anderson of Woodhouse Chocolate in St. Helena, California, will delve into modern artisanal chocolate making.
And, of course, no program on chocolate would be complete without a chance to eat some! Chef Rhys Lewis and the Colonial Williamsburg Lodge culinary team will present us with delicious chocolate concoctions of the past, present, and future. So, come learn, smell, taste, and follow chocolate on its journey through history!
A Head for Fashion: Hair, Wigs, Cosmetics, and Jewelry, 1600-1900
Colonial Williamsburg is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Kings Arms Barber and Wig Shop by hosting a conference on wigs, hair, makeup, and accessories of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. The program will examine how “fashion from the neck up” changed over time, reflecting changes in taste, the personal images people wished to present, affluence and class, and sheer practicality. Colonial Williamsburg wigmakers and other tradespeople, historians and interpreters, will be joined by noted guest speakers to present talks on wigs, hairstyles, cosmetics, jewelry, and related topics. These presentations will be interspersed with demonstrations and panel discussions.
As we put this program together, we realized that there is little published information specifically about these topics, and it is difficult to find anything that brings them all together. This conference will help to fill that gap, for scholars, curators, museum interpreters, reenactors, theatre costumers, and anyone who is just plain interested. We are looking forward to a diverse and enthusiastic audience who will bring their perspectives to the conversation. And we plan to have fun!
January 18-21 and 22-25
Working Wood in the 18th-Century
Desks: The Write Stuff
Colonial Williamsburg and Fine Woodworking present the seventeenth annual Working Wood in the 18th Century conference: Desks: The Write Stuff. Projects and presentations will explore the design, construction, and evolution of 18th century desk forms.
Drawing primarily from the Colonial Williamsburg collection, the staff of the Anthony Hay Cabinet Shop will demonstrate the re-creation of three desks that span the first three quarters of the 18th century. Bill Pavlak will reproduce an escritoire originally built by Edward Evans of Philadelphia in 1707 (the earliest known signed and dated piece from that city). Brian Weldy will illustrate the construction of a block front desk, that quintessential New England form, with a surprising history of manufacture in the Norfolk, Virginia area in the 1770s. As a comparison and contrast to this, Kaare Loftheim will walk attendees through a Norfolk desk and bookcase that shows the structural refinements more typical of urban English shops of the same period. To bring guests to the closing years of the century, featured presenter Robert Millard will explore the construction and decoration of one of John and Thomas Seymour’s iconic Lady’s Tambour Writing Desks. With these four desks participants will have an opportunity to consider changing approaches in Anglo-American case construction and design that run the gamut from typical to novel. Highlighting examples from our extensive collections, Tara Chicirda, Colonial Williamsburg’s curator of furniture, will kick off the conference by setting all of this in context.
In addition to these core presentations we have pulled together an impressive group of speakers and topics from the staff of Colonial Williamsburg: the construction of a desk on frame with joiner Ted Boscana, casting and engraving William and Mary hardware with master gunsmith George Suiter, a discussion of the recently discovered joiners shop of Luther Sampson in Duxbury, Massachusetts, with architectural historian Jeffrey Klee, and a dinner program with master carpenter Garland Wood on the recent construction of the massive armory complex including three workshop buildings.
67th Colonial Williamsburg Antiques Forum
New Findings in the Arts of the Southern Backcountry
New and innovative research techniques are steadily revealing extraordinary information about goods made in the Backcountry South. Previously unrecognized bodies of portraiture, furniture, ceramics, silver, textiles, and more clearly illustrate distinctive regional styles and preferences in the culturally diverse communities that stretched from Virginia Piedmont to the Gulf of Mexico. In February 2015 we will host New Findings in the Arts of the Southern Backcountry, plumbing recent developments in topics such as seating furniture of the Shenandoah Valley, the pottery of East Tennessee, Quaker cabinetmakers in the Carolina Piedmont, Kentucky silver, and the arts of the Georgia Piedmont, to name but a few. These presentations will provide a fulsome counterpart to our examination of taste and craftsmanship in coastal South during Antiques Forum 2014.
The 2015 Forum presents a host of celebrated curators, collectors, and dealers who will share their newest interpretations and discoveries. Scheduled speakers include Dale L. Couch, curator of decorative arts at The Georgia Museum of Art’s Henry Green Center, Robert A. Leath, chief curator and vice president for the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, and Jeffrey S. Evans, president and chief auctioneer at Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates.
In addition to the formal program, Forum guests may register for optional hands-on workshops with the Colonial Williamsburg collections as well as private tours of historic homes in the region. This promises to be an eye-opening Antiques Forum. Please plan to join us February 20-24, 2015, for the 67th annual Antiques Forum, New Findings in the Arts of the Southern Backcountry.
Stitching Together a National Identity
American home furnishings, quilts, needlework, and clothing reflect great diversity and regional variations. Many factors influenced distinct regional characteristics including the ethnic origins of the makers, trade and migration patterns, influential teachers and artists, geography, and even climate. This symposium explores these regional variations in American textiles of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries and the forces that molded them. Through a series of formal lectures and juried papers, the symposium will address the question of what is American in American quilts, clothing, and needlework; provide updates on the latest research techniques and databases; and dispel myths about homespun and Yankee thrift.
69th Garden Symposium
Layers of the Living Landscape
How many living layers are in your garden? During Colonial Williamsburg’s 69th Garden Symposium, Rick Darke and Doug Tallamy, authors of The Living Landscape share their expertise on using plants to create and maintain a layered landscape. Planting in layers allows gardeners to take full advantage of their space and include a diversity of plants that provide beauty and benefit wildlife. The authors and other experts will suggest design strategies for effectively transitioning from one layer to the next and recommend plant selections that range from tall shade trees to mid-size shrubs to low-growing perennials and groundcovers. Maintenance tips for all plants will be shared in hopes that you will be encouraged to create a home landscape that is satisfying on many levels.
Declaring Independence: American Ceramics in the Making
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
Post Office Box 1776
Williamsburg, VA 23187-1776
Fax: (757) 565-8921
Telephone: (757) 220-7255
Toll free: (800) 603-0948