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
The Friends of Colonial Williamsburg Collections
Declaring Independence: American Ceramics in the Making
Soon after the establishment of Jamestown and other permanent settlements in North America, colonists began exploring the limits of local clay. Despite the restrictions imposed by England on manufacturing, potters and entrepreneurs set up shop early on and began producing utilitarian wares for local and eventually regional consumption. Settlers in New England, New York, Virginia, and beyond brought training and techniques with them establishing potteries that grew in size and scale as the centuries progressed. With particular emphasis on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this conference will explore the vast array of ceramics made in America and will investigate the themes of influence, imitation, and innovation. Additional attention will be paid to the lasting impact of how these periods shaped the making of ceramics in America during the twentieth century and beyond. Join your ceramic-enthusiast friends and colleagues for three days filled with hands-on workshops; demonstrations by noted potters; and lectures by curators, scholars, and archaeologists.
January 17-20 and 21-24
Working Wood in the 18th Century
The Pursuit of Happiness: Furniture for Leisure and Entertainment
As work and other obligations allowed, 18th-century Americans sought leisure in any number of endeavors, both high and low. Whether social in nature — entertainments like dance, sport, drinking, and gambling — or private — engaging intellectual curiosities or seeking rest — these activities were central to the overlapping cultures of early America. For those who could afford it, these pursuits often led to the shops where woodworking artisans crafted the material culture of such pastimes.
The 2016 symposium will focus on objects born of this interaction.
Card tables were among the more conspicuous examples of leisure furniture and our featured guest, cabinetmaker Alfred Sharp, will demonstrate the work involved in a finely carved example from Philadelphia. The original table, part of Colonial Williamsburg's collection, will be on stage beside him. In fact, most of our program will feature people and objects from the Foundation. This year we are excited to feature two major forms for the first time: an upholstered easy chair attributed to the Williamsburg shop of Anthony Hay, reproduced by cabinet shop supervisor Kaare Loftheim with upholstery conservator Leroy Graves; and a free-standing architectural structure, a gazebo, fabricated by joiner Ted Boscana.
Harpsichord maker Edward Wright will explore aspects of colonial musical life by demonstrating the materials and techniques used in the manufacture of a spinet, while cabinetmaker Bill Pavlak will build an adjustable music stand with tripod base. For a completely different woodworking perspective, cooper Jonathan Hallman will construct a coopered mahogany wine cooler which will contrast with the approach to the same form demonstrated by cabinetmaker Brian Weldy.
Several curatorial presentations round out the offerings: a glimpse into the anatomy of an 18th-century billiard table, a look at wooden toys from the collection with curator Jan Gilliam, and a study of gentlemen's tools with independent scholar Jane Rees. Furniture curator Tara Chicirda will set the stage with an illustrated overview of the various pastimes and leisure activities that were popular in Colonial America along with the types of objects used in their pursuit. All of our presenters will focus on period tools and methods while close-up video monitoring will show these processes and objects in great detail.
Once again, we will host a tool swap prior to the conference banquet as well as tours of our modern conservation labs, open to a limited number of guests.
68th Annual Colonial Williamsburg Antiques Forum
Creating an American Identity:
A Revolution in Decorative Arts, 1776-1826
During the half century after the Revolution, American fine and decorative arts were subject to an astounding array of change. With the end of British rule, American merchants were finally free to trade directly with artisans in China and continental Europe. Advancing production technologies generated new varieties of textiles, ceramics, glass, and other media. Westward and southward shifts in America’s booming population blurred the lines of regional taste in furniture, art, and architecture. You are invited to learn more about this dynamic period in American material culture at the 68th annual Colonial Williamsburg Antiques Forum, Creating an American Identity: A Revolution in Decorative Arts, 1776-1826.
The 2016 Forum will gather acclaimed curators, collectors, and scholars from across the United States to share their most recent findings and insights. Scheduled speakers include Philip Zea, president of Historic Deerfield, Massachusetts, Matthew Thurlow of the Decorative Arts Trust, and Louisiana scholar H. Parrott Bacot.
In addition to the formal program, Forum guests may register for optional hands-on workshops with the Colonial Williamsburg collections and private tours of historic homes in the region. Addressing American decorative arts from Maine to Georgia, this promises to be a memorable Forum. Please plan to join us February 19-23, 2016, for Creating an American Identity: A Revolution in Decorative Arts, 1776-1826.
Ales through the Ages
April 24 - 26
(Note change in date)
70th Colonial Williamsburg Garden Symposium
September 16 - 18
The Building Arts: From Foundations to Finishes
Printed Textiles in America: 1600-1860
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
Post Office Box 1776
Williamsburg, VA 23187-1776
Fax: (757) 565-8921
Telephone: (757) 220-7255
Toll free: (800) 603-0948