Posted by Dywana Saunders, Angie White and Crista LaPrade
In December, we had the opportunity to travel to Colonial Williamsburg for a rare behind-the-scenes tour of the Department of Collections. We were honored to have Ron Hurst, Chief Curator and Vice President for Collections, Conservation and Museums, as our guide through the impressive facility.
The Wallace Collections and Conservation building is 70,000 sq ft of storage, curatorial offices, and conservation labs for Archaeological Materials, Wooden Artifacts (including furniture), Instruments and Mechanical Arts, Objects, Paintings, Paper, Textiles, and Upholstery. We had the opportunity to meet some of the curators and conservators and see the pieces they were currently working on in the labs. Each lab is specially equipped with the state of the art equipment to clean, preserve, and stabilize museum pieces. We were very impressed to see an actual eighteenth century red coat:
And watch as an exhibition building needlework rug was mended and blocked:
The photography studio was huge. We were impressed to see a cat walk around the studio where particularly large pieces can be photographed. We also saw the special photo set ups for furniture and silver:
We were also guided through the amazing storage areas located in this building. It was interesting to see rows upon rows of compact shelving. Delicate items were held steady on shelves with special weighted pads and shelves were covered with Plexiglas or fabric dust covers. Paintings, silver, and textiles could all be rolled out for curatorial examination and study. You can find out more about CW Collections and Museums online, as well as look through some of the collections.
In the afternoon, we met with the staff of the Digital History Center located in the John D. Rockefeller Library.
Lisa Fischer, Director, Peter Inker, Manager of 3-D Visualization, and Ted Maris-Wolf, Manager of Research and Content Development, graciously spent time sharing some of their current projects with us. They are working on some amazing projects that extend their reach far beyond the summer tourist visiting DOG Street. We were amazed by Virtual Williamsburg, 1776 which required collaboration among many people from many departments within Colonial Williamsburg to ensure accuracy of the 3-d modeling and to incorporate representative primary sources to depict a pivotal moment in time in our nation’s history. Virtual Williamsburg is a collaborative project with the Institute for Advanced Technologies in the Humanities that began in 2006. Work on this project is ongoing and truly impressive.
They also showed us Revquest, an interactive onsite game that allows visitors to Colonial Williamsburg to use their cell phone to find clues to solve a Colonial Era mystery. A new version, Revquest: Save the Revolution! is due out this spring.
And finally, they shared with us the recently unveiled site, Slavery and Remembrance. It is a truly unique and internationally collaborative endeavor being “a collaboration of UNESCO’s Slave Route Project, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and dozens of sites and museums across the globe.”
To see the innovative work being done by our colleagues just 45 minutes or so down I64 was truly inspiring. We hope you all have the opportunity to visit Colonial Williamsburg in person sometime soon, however if you can’t make it there, you simply have to get online and experience it virtually!