The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s many treasures include its outstanding collections. They encompass nearly 70,000 examples of American and British fine, decorative and mechanical art; 5,000 pieces of American folk art; more than 20 million archaeological artifacts; and 15,000 architectural elements. These materials help us understand life in Virginia, the American colonies and the greater North Atlantic from the 17th century through the Early National Period.
Many of the collections furnish more than 200 rooms in Williamsburg’s historic buildings. A leader in authentic recreation of historic spaces, the Foundation aims to research and present the most authentic settings possible, from the parlors of the wealthy to the working and living spaces of the enslaved. We believe it is easier to teach important stories of the past when they are delivered in a convincing setting.
The collections are also displayed in the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg: the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. There, both long-term and changing exhibitions are designed to tell stories. Once-common objects such as furniture, clothing, ceramics, metals, maps and firearms become interpretive tools for talking about the people, events and ideas of the past.
Finally, the collections are an unparalleled research repository. The Foundation’s archaeological holdings in 18th-century British and American materials are among the world’s most complete, while its archaeological environmental collections offer a window into plant and animal populations. The folk art collection is the nation’s largest and oldest; the fine and decorative arts include nationally important assemblages of Southern furniture, maps, British pewter, numismatics, British ceramics and a host of other materials. All are regularly used by researchers on staff and from around the world.