Exploring American Revolution Museum at Yorktown

On day 2 of our weekend getaway to Jamestown, VA, we visited The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation hosted our family for the weekend including lodging, museum passes, and meals. All opinions are our own.

Family in front of American Revolution Museum atYorktown

The second full day of our weekend getaway was spent at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. It’s about a twenty minute drive from Jamestown Settlement, which we visited the day before.

Logistically, we could’ve visited both in one day, but I think that would have been information overload. Because we spread out our trip over two days, there was no pressure to rush through everything. 

About American Revolution Museum

Kids with George Washington

Like its name suggests, the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown documents the founding of the United States. There’s galleries, interactive exhibits, and a living history component.

TICKETS PRICES:

  • Youth  (8-12) $8.25
  • Adults (13 and older) 417.50
  • Kids under 5 are free

You can also save by purchasing combination tickets for both Jamestown Settlement and American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.

Both are open year-round except on Christmas and New Year’s days.

Forgotten Solder Exhibit

There are several galleries, but one we had to see first. We enjoyed the special exhibition Forgotten Soldier, which is only display through  March 22, 2020.

Forgotten Soldier Postcards

Forgotten Soldier highlights free and enslaved African Americans fighting on both sides of the American Revolution.  Did you know that the British promised freedom in order to recruit enslaved Africans to fight for them?

You can view artifacts and read stories about James Lafayette, an enslaved man who was a Patriot spy, and Crispus Attucks who was the war’s first casualty at the Boston Massacre.

The exhibit also features contemporary artwork by Titus Kaphar. I couldn’t take my eyes off his artwork. Check out his powerful TED Talk about art amending history.

Both my 8th grader and 4th grader recently learned about the American Revolution at school, but they didn’t learn the stories of these people. Neither did I or my husband.

Why aren’t we telling these stories? We know why. Because people of color, both free and enslaved, were considered second class citizens. I’m glad that this exhibit exists. We need more like it.

Living History

I could tell the kids enjoyed the living history component at Jamestown Settlement because they were also eager to experience Yorktown’s living history site. The outdoor area here is smaller but just as jammed packed.

Revolution-era Farm

We headed to the 18th century farm first, where we learned about tobacco farming and trade in Virginia. The staff was also cooking in the kitchen, which was a separate structure. We learned a lot about salted meats and how food was stored.

18th Century Colonial fridge

The “fridge” was a cupboard made of cloth and wood. It had a door that locked but no refrigeration. No surprise that people in the 18th century had a lot of intestinal issues.

Slave Quarters

The map we received at the entrance noted there were slave quarters on the farm. We walked past it several times before realizing it was this tiny cabin.

18th century colonial slave quarters

As an interracial Black and Vietnamese American family, we have many discussions about both of our family heritages. My kids are proud of who they are. They were also very interested to see the slave quarters and learning more about enslaved people from this era.

Inside slave quarters

We were all disappointed there wasn’t more information available by the slave quarters. Obviously, we didn’t expect a Black person to “play” an enslaved person at the museum, but the quarters were unmarked with not much to indicate its significance.

Unless you looked at a map or asked a staff member (in a different part of the farm) about it. We did ask and learned a little bit, but not to the extent we learned about the kitchen, tobacco farming–or even the garden.

Continental Army Encampment

18th army tent

Life in the army was hard as we learned at the recreated encampment site. While the leaders’ tents were “luxurious” for the time period (see tent above), everyone else lived 6 people to a tiny tent! 

18th century Army Kitchen

If you thought war was dangerous, try surviving the food. Soldiers received rations of salted meat, hard tack (really dry, really hard bread) and beans. They were responsible for cooking their own food. Because the “kitchen” wasn’t very large, each tent would send one person to do the cooking for all of them. 

Can you imagine fighting a war and eating the same food everyday?

Musket Firing Demonstration

Wooden musket firing demonstration at Yorktown

If you thought living conditions and bad food were challenging, how about learning how to load a musket and shoot? Then reload and shoot again?

Musket ball-American Revolution

I had no idea musket balls were so big! 

Medical Care

18th century surgery tools

After talking to the guides in the medical tent, I’ll use the term medical care loosely. Remember medical science wasn’t anywhere near today’s standards. Doctors were still bleeding or using leeches to heal people. 

Final Thoughts

Overall we enjoyed chatting with the guides. Because of the cold, blustery weather, there wasn’t a lot of visitors. Our family was able to monopolize the guides and ask tons of questions.

While the mood at American Revolution Museum at Yorktown is more serious than Jamestown Settlement–it’s set during a war, so, yeah–we enjoyed ourselves. It was fascinating and we learned a lot of details they don’t teach you in school.

I highly recommend seeing the Forgotten Soldier exhibit. It’s a must for everyone.

Big thanks to the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation for hosting our family!

 

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