WILLIAMSBURG — A groundbreaking ceremony for The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s new Colin G. and Nancy N. Campbell Archaeology Center will be held on April 21 at 4 p.m. across the street from the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg.
The archaeology center, scheduled to be completed in 2025, will be open to the public seven days a week. It will offer guests an interactive window into the Foundation’s current archaeological projects, as well as the 60 million artifacts that currently make up its archaeological collection.
“Research is the backbone of our public education programming, and archaeology has played a key role in that research for nearly 100 years,” said Cliff Fleet, president and CEO of the Foundation. “By making our globally renowned collection more accessible to the public, The Campbell Archaeology Center will give visitors the opportunity to play a leading role in their own exploration of history.”
“Most people don’t realize how much work happens in the lab,” said Jack Gary, Colonial Williamsburg’s director of archaeology. “Only 40% of a project takes place at the excavation site. The other 60% happens in the lab. Right now, our visitors engage with us in the field, but there’s no way for them to follow these projects to completion because we don’t have a facility that can accommodate them. This new archaeology center will change all of that.”
The Campbell Archaeology Center is one of the Foundation’s signature projects leading up to the commemoration of America’s 250th anniversary in 2026. The building, designed by the architecture firm of Clark Nexsen, will join several new sites on Nassau Street to help create what will become a major visitor corridor to the Historic Area. The Williamsburg Bray School is slated to open in September 2024. First Baptist Church and the Custis Square gardens will follow in the fall of 2026.
According to a release from The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, its approach to historical archaeology has continued to evolve in response to advances in technology and broader social trends which inform not only the types of questions being asked, but also who is asking them.
“Modern archaeology is publicly engaged archaeology,” said Gary.
CWF noted this approach can be seen in current projects such as the First Baptist Church excavation and the Williamsburg Bray School restoration in which the descendant communities have played key roles in guiding and defining the work. Gary predicts that the community’s role in publicly engaged historical archaeology will continue to grow in the coming years.
“I think we’ll see an increase in community engagement. The questions about our collective history will come from the communities in which we live and work. And that’s exciting. That’s where they need to come from in order for archaeology to remain relevant,” Gary continued.
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation assures there is no shortage of work for the community to engage with it, noting that despite nearly 100 years of excavations, 80% of the historic area has yet to be examined using modern archaeological techniques. The Colin G. and Nancy N. Campbell Archaeology Center “will ensure that archaeology continues to thrive at the Foundation for generations to come,” it said.
For more information about the center and Colonial Williamsburg, visit the official webpage.