YORKTOWN - A decade in the making, the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown was formally unveiled this morning during its grand opening celebrations.
"Our vision over the last 10 years has been to create a museum that tells a national story, and indeed welcomes a national audience," said Jamestown-Yorktown Foudnation executive director Phil Emerson following the ceremony.
Museum officials say the remodeled and refocused facility, formerly known as the Yorktown Victory Center, "presents a renewed perspective on the meaning and impact of the Revolution."
"We feel like the new museum will complement the great work of the National Park Service right here in Yorktown, but other Revolutionary War sites including Colonial Williamsburg, Monticello [and] Mount Vernon," Emerson said.
The celebrations will take place over 13 days through Apr. 4, honoring each state in the order in which they ratified the Constitution. The museum's Dedication Day takes place Apr. 1, a day to honor Virginia and 41 years to the day that the Yorktown Victory Center was dedicated.
Thursday's ceremony and program honored Delaware's contribution to the Revolutionary War. Delaware state official and members of state heritage organizations took part in the ceremony, which featured welcoming remarks, a state flag presentation and an artillery salute.
In 1976, Virginia opened one of three bicentennial welcome centers on the current museum site. The 23 acres of land along the York River was donated to the foundation by Nick and Mary Matthews, who operated Nick’s Seafood Pavilion.
Peter Armstrong, senior director of museum operations and education for the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, took time during his opening remarks to honor the late-Nick and Mary Matthews, who donated 23 acres of land along the York River to the then-Yorktown Victory Center in 1972 and later Mary Matthews bequeathed nearly the entire Matthews estate to the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.
"In 2007, it became apparent that the facility was really outliving its usefulness," Armstrong said. "We had so many visitors, and so many schoolchildren visiting us."
He said the museum "would serve to remind us that the ideas of those Founding Fathers and mothers who fought for ideas that resonate with us even today."
The 80,000-square-foot, $50 million museum includes a 22,000-square-foot permanent exhibition gallery, a 5,000-square-foot special exhibition gallery, an education center and outdoor living history areas to include a Continental Army encampment and a Revolution-era farm.
"We want to lift up Virginia's brand as a destination for the American Revolution," Emerson said, "and we're confident that our programs - both inside and outside - will do a stellar job of making people understanding that history, make it engaging and enjoyable."
Read more on the 'New Revolution' and what will be taking place over the course of the 13 days.