With another wave of chilling winds well on its way, how better to escape the doldrums of winter than with cannons and colonists?
(And some cannibalism too, unfortunately.)
When Ithaca seemed to transform into Antarctica last week, I was so swept up in my need to comment about the cold that I completely neglected to describe the most exciting (and museum-related) part of my winter break! During a quick trip to Virginia on my way back to Cornell, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit the Jamestown settlement: ultimately a near-transcendental experience that rivalled my adventures in Scotland (though Jamestown’s pretty young compared to most of those castles).
I’m also taking a really exciting art history seminar on images of “encounters” in the Americas during the early modern world this semester, so I hope I’ll eventually be able to reframe the works I saw at Jamestown in a more informed context.
Anyway, when I start using words like “context” and “reframe,” it’s probably time to turn off the vaguely meaningless scholar jargon and bring out some pictures!
I first read about “Historic Jamestowne,” as it’s called, during my endless senior year job hunt. Now that I’ve visited, I’m extremely disappointed that they’re not currently hiring educators or interpreters, because I think working at Historic Jamestowne would be extremely fulfilling and fun. The settlement consists mostly of reconstructed buildings, fences, and markers–the actual remains are kept beneath the earth, presumably so they won’t get damaged. (The cost, of course, is that nobody ever gets to see them.)
The best part of Historic Jamestowne, however, isn’t captured in any of my pictures. Out among the cannons and commemorative statues is the settlement’s not-so-hidden gem: the Archaerium. This miniature museum holds an impressive collection of objects excavated from the settlement, including a few human skeletons that have been eerily (yet amazingly) matched to potential faces thanks to forensic reconstruction software.
It was in the Archaerium, unfortunately, that I became incredibly disturbed by the suggestive description of cannibalism during the “starving time”–a grim little footnote of history that is particularly ironic when you consider that Europeans had been decrying cannibalism as one of the beastly traits of “savages” for ages.
If there’s one thing I miss in Ithaca after my Scotland adventures, it’s easy access to historically significant sites. I mean, I like the gorges and other natural features as much as anyone else, but living somewhere with a castle or a colonial settlement must be nice.
Should any of you fine readers know of a nearby landmark that I should visit before I graduate, leave me a comment and let me know–otherwise I’ll continue to dream of crumbling stone walls, tragically “restored” interiors, and buying pieces of history for $2.99 at little gift shops.