The museums at Colonial Williamsburg offer ever-changing exhibits

Ann M. Efimetz

9:58 AM EDT, June 25, 2014


The museums at Colonial Williamsburg offer visitors and locals the opportunity to see rare pieces that are part of our country’s heritage. The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum have ever-changing exhibits designed to provide visual excitement while teaching about the past.
A recent tour of two museums with Laura Pass Barry, the Juli Grainger curator of paintings, drawings and sculpture, and manager for curatorial outreach for Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, unearthed new exhibits interspersed with 18th century staples.
Colonial Williamsburg recently announced plans to expand the museum, offering a central, street-level entrance that will facilitate guests and make access to the galleries easier. There will be more room to showcase items in the collection ranging from furniture and paintings to ceramics and textiles.
In the meantime, visitors can take in new items, including a recently acquired piece of sand art  done by Andrew Clemens. Clemens  was renowned for his intricate pieces of sand art. “From Nannie to Nellie” is on display in the lobby of the DeWitt Wallace.
“It is the only bottle of his we have,” Barry said. “It is new to our collection.”
Another recent acquisition is an oil on canvas of John Custis Wilson by Charles Willson Peale. Barry said the foundation acquired it from his family who wanted to the work to be displayed in an institution/museum setting.
The DeWitt Wallace’s current exhibit “A Rich and Varied Culture: The Material World of the Early South” has been on display since February, in the area formerly occupied the Masterworks Gallery. The exhibit features works from distinct regions, The Chesapeake, Low Country and Back Country. The exhibit includes hundreds of items from Colonial Williamsburg, other institutions and private collections.
In addition to the new items, there is a variety of items in the museums that are popular among visitors and locals. The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Decorative Arts Museum, features a variety of distinctive items which were part of her collection and were once displayed in the Rockefeller’s New York apartment.
There’s not much time left to see the exhibit, “Painters and Paintings in the Early American South, which showcases 80 paintings from Colonial Williamsburg’s collection and from other major institutions. An image of George Washington by Charles Willson Peale is on loan from Washington and Lee University and is part of the exhibit. The oft-published image depicts Washington in his colonel's uniform of the Virginia Regiment from the French and Indian War.
Those who have visited the museums in the past may be pleased at all that’s new to take in. “There is so much to see here,” Barry said.