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Current Exhibits
at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum

  • Architectural Clues to 18th-Century Williamsburg

    Explore architectural elements from both surviving and demolished 18th- and early-19th-century buildings in the Historic Area. The pieces are part of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's architectural collection and provide an interesting and valuable research tool in studying the history of the built environment before, during, and after the Restoration of the Historic Area. Most recently, the collection helped with the reconstruction of Charlton's Coffeehouse and the Public Armoury, as well as informing paint color changes throughout the Historic Area.

    Opens May 28, 2016

  • Corner Cupboard

    This Just in!
    Recent Additions to the Permanent Collection

    The Foundation’s furniture collection includes both American and British pieces made between 1680 and 1830 as well as American folk art up to the present day. The American furniture collection encompasses almost the entire East Coast from New England to Georgia and reaches as far west as Tennessee and Louisiana. The collection continues to grow as relevant objects come to light. This Just In takes a look at some of the most recent additions to the furniture collection including pieces from various counties in Virginia, and objects from Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina and elsewhere. These objects are being shown at the museum for the first time.

    Ongoing exhibition in the Elizabeth Ridgely and Miodrag Blagojevich Gallery

  • Map

    We are One: Mapping America's Road from Revolution to Independence

    This loan exhibition from Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library includes many maps from our collection.

    We Are One maps the American road to independence. It explores the tumultuous events that led thirteen colonies to join to forge a new nation. Using maps, the exhibition traces the American story from the strife of the French and Indian War to the creation of a new national government. When tensions between Britain and her American colonies erupted into war, British cartographers and other witnesses depicted military campaigns, battles, and their settings. These maps, drawings, and military artifacts now bring the long, bloody struggle for independence to life. In the aftermath of the Revolution, America took stock of her new geography with surveys and maps. European maps reflect their success by recognizing America's triumphant new status of nationhood and her expanding territory.

    Through January 29, 2017 in the Gladys and Franklin Clark Foundation Gallery and the Jan Curtis and Frank J. Spayth Gallery.


  • Teapot

    Silver from Mine to Masterpiece

    Silver from Mine to Masterpiece features about 150 objects primarily drawn from Colonial Williamsburg's superb collection of British and American silver. Various aspects of silver will be explored, including silver as a material, fabrication and decorative techniques, and the social role of silver objects in America and Britain. Other areas of interest will be a section on silver made and used in Williamsburg, stunning examples by premiere silversmiths of the period including Paul de Lamerie and Paul Revere, and a display of what is new to the collection.


  • Dollhouse

    The World Made Small

    Dollhouses are some of the most popular miniature versions of the real world. On view in the Wilkinson Gallery is a museum favorite — the enormous Long island Dollhouse made around 1900 and fully furnished. The earliest dollhouse in the exhibit was made in 1820 for twin girls. Other houses include a house made in the Chesapeake around 1835 and a colonial revival house made around 1940. While young girls played house, what about the young boys? Wonderful German-made playsets from the 19th century will be featured including a fort, a soldiers' campsite and a farm.

    Through February 2018 in the Rachel Elisabeth and Joshua Ryan Wilkinson Gallery

  • China of the Most Fashionable Sort: Chinese Export Porcelain in Colonial America

    Birds, Bugs and Blooms:
    Observing the Natural World in the 18th Century

    Explore the growth of interest in natural history during the 18th century through period illustrations. With the settlement of the New World, many Englishmen and colonists were fascinated by the plants and animals that were native to the region. These gentlemen on both sides of the Atlantic exchanged specimens and ideas and sponsored the avid collecting and documenting of birds, bugs and plants. Gardens, carefully planned and laid out, furthered the studies and enjoyment both privately and publically. Beautiful watercolors, hand-colored prints and period books illustrate this story.

    Through August 2017 in the Shirley H. and Richard D. Roberts Gallery

  • China of the Most Fashionable Sort: Chinese Export Porcelain in Colonial America

    China of the Most Fashionable Sort:
    Chinese Export Porcelain in Colonial America

    Chinese export porcelain played an important role in the lives of 18th-century colonists. It was the most desirable of the ceramic bodies, and possessing it indicated wealth and status. This exhibit illustrates the wide variety of Chinese porcelain that was available in colonial America with a particular focus on pieces with histories in Virginia. Objects recovered from archaeological excavations are also featured.

    Ongoing exhibition in the June Weldon Focus Room

  • Furniture

    A Rich and Varied Culture:
    The Material World of the Early South

    This wide-ranging new exhibition celebrates the remarkable arts and antiques that were created in or imported to the Chesapeake, the Carolina Low Country, and Southern Backcountry. Created in conjunction with two dozen partner institutions and private collectors, the exhibition highlights the aesthetic diversity brought to the region by the varied cultures and ethnic groups that ultimately defined a unique, early southern style.

    The exhibition was made possible by Carolyn and Michael McNamara.

    Ongoing exhibition in the Nancy N. and Colin G. Campbell Gallery and the Mary Turner Gilliland and Clinton R. Gilliland Gallery

  • Changing Keys: Keyboard Instruments for America, 1700–1830

    Changing Keys:
    Keyboard Instruments for America, 1700–1830

    This exhibition explores the evolution of spinets, harpsichords and pianos in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Featuring more than 25 instruments including spinets, harpsichords, and pianos, ranging in date from 1700 to 1830, the instruments are drawn from Colonial Williamsburg’s significant collection of English keyboards. Many have never before been exhibited. Keyboard instruments were an integral part of the cultural milieu of Virginia’s colonial and post-colonial period. The second known public performance on a piano in America took place at the Raleigh Tavern. The exhibit explores the differences in the various types of keyboards as well as the evolution of the instrument over time. Sound sticks allow you to listen to many of the instruments and two reproductions are included so that they can be played for visitors, for what is an instrument without its sound? Models of detailed aspects of the keyboard allow visitors further insight into the workings of the instruments.

    Ongoing exhibition in the Iris and Mark Coblitz Gallery and the Levanti Family Gallery

  • Fire engine

    Richard Newsham’s Fire Engine

    Richard Newsham’s Fire Engine explores fire and fire fighting in the 18th century with the display of an original fire engine built in the mid-18th century. Williamsburg, described as "our Wooden city" in 1721, remained relatively safe until 1747 when the Capitol burned. The new Capitol was threatened in 1754. Wisely, the colony decided to invest in a proper fire engine, and the next month the Council directed "That the Receiver General send to London for a Fire Engine and Four Dozen of Leatheren Buckets for the use of the Capitol." Initially granted a patent on December 26, 1721, Richard Newsham’s “new water engine for quenching and extinguishing fires” became the clear choice for anyone in England or America who was serious about combating the flames. So effective were Newsham’s engines that some were used for more than a century. The original engine is on view for the first time.

    This exhibition was made possible by a grant from the Ambrose and Ida Frederickson Foundation.

    Ongoing exhibition

  • Coffeehouse

    Rebuilding Charlton’s Coffeehouse

    Colonial Williamsburg’s reconstruction of Charlton’s Coffeehouse is the first ground-up reconstruction along Duke of Gloucester Street in several decades. It involved the work of every department and trade in the Foundation. The exhibition explores how such a building could be so accurately constructed and furnished when seemingly very little was left of the original structure. It will use archaeological, architectural, archival, decorative arts and trades components to show visitors the process of rebuilding the history, structure, and interiors of the coffeehouse. Through video, graphics, original objects, and touchable reproductions, visitors learn firsthand what it took to bring the project to completion.

    Ongoing exhibition

  • American Furniture:  From Virginia to Vermont

    American Furniture: From Virginia to Vermont

    This exhibition in the Elizabeth Ridgely and Miodrag Blagojevich Gallery highlights pieces from three regions: Eastern Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New England. While early furniture forms and styles from these areas were similar from the late 17th through the early 19th centuries, the interpretation and the popularity of designs varied due to differences in local economies, trade settlement patterns, and the religious and cultural backgrounds of the inhabitants.

    Ongoing exhibition

  • Lock, Stock, and Barrel

    Lock, Stock, and Barrel

    This exhibition is an outstanding display of military and civilian weapons exploring muzzle-loading firearms, ignition systems, and the evolution of the standing British infantry musket before 1800.

    Through November 5, 2017

  • Revolution in Taste

    Revolution in Taste

    This exhibition dazzles with rich and colorful choices in table and tea wares available to 18th-century British and American consumers. Expanding world trade and strengthening industry put a teapot on every table — until tea became a symbol of protest in the American Revolution.

    Ongoing exhibition in the Henry H. Weldon Gallery