Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Discovering Jamestown

At the urging of fellow blogger Tim Hulsey, I traveled this past Monday to Jamestown, the site of the first permanent English settlement in North America. As the official slogan goes, "Every American should stand here once."

It was my first visit and it was memorable, because it included a chance meeting with Dr. William M. Kelso, the archaeologist who, through detective work and thorough historical research, discovered the site of the original Jamestown fort, which had long been thought lost to the waves and currents of the James River.

Fortunately, I had my video camera with me, so I asked Dr. Kelso to say a few words about his discovery. (On the clip below, Dr. Kelso's remarks begin at about 03:05 minutes.)

In the gift shop of Jamestown's Archaearium, I found an autographed copy of Dr. Kelso's recent book, Jamestown, the Buried Truth, which I eagerly purchased (along with a baseball cap and a t-shirt -- sometimes one just wants to be a tourist). The book tells the story of his team's discovery in greater detail than the brief interview he granted to us on Monday afternoon.

Our trip was also occasioned by an exhibit at the Contemporary Art Center of Virginia (CACV) in Virginia Beach, which features one of the four original manuscript copies of Magna Carta, along with such historical documents as the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the official proceedings of the Virginia General Assembly from the days during which George Mason's Virginia Declaration of Rights was debated and adopted.

The copy of Magna Carta is on loan from Lincoln Cathedral, where it was found after some half a millenium. It is in amazingly good shape, though only a trained expert would be able to read it -- the penmanship is crabbed and faded and, of course, the language is medieval Latin. Despite being unable to make out the words, it was a thrill to be in the same room with such an important historical document and a palpable link to our Anglo-Norman past. A new goal based on what I learned from the exhibit: to find out more about Gerard d'Athée, who must have been quite villainous to be named (along with his kinsmen) in the charter.

If you want to see the exhibition, you'll have to hurry, because "Magna Carta & Four Foundations of Freedom" closes on June 18, three days after the anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta by King John in 1215 (and six days after the anniversary of the Virginia Declaration of Rights).

The documents are accompanied by a collection of artworks called "By Our Heirs Forever: New Waves 2007" described as "a thematic, juried exhibition of contemporary Virginia artists working in all visual arts media." Some of the works are quite clever; others are subversive; some others are simply inscrutable.

Update: I have added still photographs that I took at Jamestown in a new post, "Images of Jamestown."

1 comment:

Tim said...

There are a lot of places every American should stand once.