WYDaily.com is your source for free news and information in Williamsburg, James City & York Counties.
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has about 60 million items in its archaeological collection, and they are currently stored in every nook and cranny in a building on Botetourt Street and a warehouse 6 miles away.
That’s about to change thanks to a $10 million gift from Forrest Mars Jr. The money will be used to pay the design and construction costs of a new archaeological collections building that better suits the foundation’s needs for handling its priceless collection.
The new building — set to be located on Botetourt Street near the foundation’s bus garages — will replace the Botetourt Street building, which has been in service since 1957 when it was first opened as a warehouse. It has since been converted into the archaeology collections building.
The lack of space in the building has pushed foundation staff to convert almost the entire building into a storage area. That means artifacts are stored in active labs, and some staff members have no offices and instead work from desks situated within the labs.
While the most frequently used items in the collection are stored in the existing building, many of them are difficult to access, said Ronald L. Hurst, the foundation’s Carlisle H. Humelsine chief curator and vice president of collections, conservations and museums.
The foundation cannot use just any building to store the artifacts as 50 percent relative humidity and a constant temperature of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit must be maintained. Some of the artifacts require much lower humidity levels, and artifacts from the environment — like soil samples — have special environmental needs.
Mars’ gift will allow the foundation to move forward with a new building to ease the burden on the Botetourt Street building. Basic conceptual design is currently underway, and architectural work will begin soon. That is anticipated to take about nine months, after which construction should begin.
The new building will include some room for the public to check out the archaeological work underway at Colonial Williamsburg. The foundation is also planning educational programming to be held at the building, along with classes, lectures, workshops and public tours.
Prior to the $10 million gift, Mars had already given more than $11 million to the foundation since 2007. Mars has supported several projects at Colonial Williamsburg, including the reconstruction of Charlton’s Coffeehouse, Anderson’s Black Smith Shop & Public Armoury and the Market House, which is currently under construction at Market Square.
Mars is the director emeritus of the confectionary company Mars Inc. He is also a member of the foundation’s board of trustees.