Any discussion of Williamsburg’s museums has to begin with Colonial Williamsburg, which has been described as the “world's largest outdoor living history museum.” Covering 173 acres, it features over 500 public buildings, homes, stores and taverns. Visitors are free to walk around Colonial Williamsburg at any time of the day or evening, but in order to gain admission to the historic buildings, trade shops, gardens and demonstrations, visitors must purchase a Colonial Williamsburg admission ticket or pass. There is much to see and do, so plan to spend two or three days at least. Most of the events take place during the day, but night-time activities are scheduled during the summer as well as December.
DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum
The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum is as impressive as almost any we have seen, and visitors should make every effort to spend a few hours touring it. It contains American and British antiques from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The museum’s galleries include extensive collections of clothing, furniture, firearms, portraits, silver, tools, ceramics and much more. Special exhibits are on display during the year.
The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum is located underground and is much bigger than one would think. Entrance is through the Public Hospital. The hospital was the first American institution dedicated to treating the mentally ill. Visitors are able to see living arrangements, medical treatment devices, and daily life as it was for these patients. The hospital was eventually destroyed by fire in 1885.
The museum contains a gift shop, which sells books, jewelry and gifts, and features a café for lunch.
Address: DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, 326 West Francis Street, Williamsburg, VA 23185
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Museum
The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is located in the same building as the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.
Muscarelle Museum of Art
Visitors to Williamsburg should make an attempt to visit this museum. It is well worth it.
Located on the campus of the College of William and Mary, this museum displays about 4,000 works of art and specializes in American and English portraits and Native American pottery. Other permanent displays include European and American prints and drawings, Japanese prints, African art, Asian ceramics and abstract expressionist paintings. Contact the museum for more information concerning rotating exhibits and special events. There is no admission fee.
Mon-Fri 10:00 a.m. - 4:45 p.m., Sat–Sun Noon - 4:00 p.m.
Address: Jamestown Road, The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA 23188
A Brief History of the Art Collections at the College and the Muscarelle Museum of Art (extracted from The College of William and Mary’s website – www.wm.edu/muscarelle)
The Muscarelle Museum of Art was a gift to the College of William and Mary from alumni and friends. The Museum opened in 1983. In the 1970s, a visitor remarked to then-President Thomas A. Graves, Jr. that there was a Georgia O’Keeffe painting hanging, unprotected, on a wall on campus. This led President Graves to wonder what other treasures were scattered across campus. To find out, he enlisted the aid of Miles Chappell of the Art History department to conduct a survey to determine what artworks the College owned.
The survey revealed that during nearly 300 years, the College of William and Mary had amassed a sizeable collection of art and established the need for a museum to preserve and protect them. The Museum’s art collection began in 1732 when the third Earl of Burlington gave The College of William and Mary a portrait of physicist, Sir Robert Boyle. Among other early treasures were portraits such as those by English artist Charles Bridges of Mann Page II and Mrs. Mann Page and Son John.
Subsequent gifts extended the collection beyond its roots in American portraiture; the treasures in the collection now span the centuries, including works by Hans Hofmann, Picasso, Matisse and John Stuart Copley.
The collection has grown to almost 4,000 works of art from many cultures and historical eras. The strength of the collection is the holdings in English and American portraits of the 17th and 18th centuries that are nationally important; a survey collection of European and American prints and drawings from the 16th through the 20th centuries; Japanese prints; African art; Asian ceramics; and a major collection of Abstract Expressionist paintings, drawings and watercolors.
The permanent collection is supplemented and enhanced by numerous special exhibitions that bring works of art from public and private collections worldwide. These exhibitions provide opportunities for the viewing and study of related material not otherwise available in this area. The Museum collaborates on special thematic exhibitions with academic departments at the College and with other cultural institutions and organizations. Numerous educational opportunities are offered throughout the year in conjunction with the permanent collection and loan exhibitions, including lectures, gallery talks, demonstrations, seminars and symposia.
The Watermen's Museum
This museum is located in a beautiful Colonial Revival home and tells the story of the fishermen, who made their livelihood fishing on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. There are fascinating exhibits on the mechanics of fishing and the tools of the trade.
Address: 309 Water Street, Yorktown, VA 23690 Phone 757-887-2641
Our Williamsburg, Virginia Bed and Breakfast is close to all of these wonderful museums. Enhance your visit to Colonial Williamsburg with a visit to one of these special area museums!