New and Improved

The art museums of Colonial Williamsburg are set to expand.

In April 2017, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation will break ground on an expansion to the building that currently houses the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. The 65,000-square-foot upgrade will be the first since the museums opened in 1985 and will cost around $40 million.

The expansion campaign for the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg was a priority of the foundation’s $600 million Campaign for History and Citizenship (CHC), which seeks to immortalize the moment when Virginia’s legislators voted to propose American independence in Congress, setting in motion a revolution that would forever change the course of world history.

“The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg are the crown jewels of the Foundation. The collections they house are the foundation upon which we tell America’s enduring story,” says Mitchell B. Reiss, president and CEO of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. “We can now provide our guests a grand museum entrance worthy of the priceless artifacts they contain.” 

The combined art museums of Colonial Williamsburg house internationally-renowned collections of American folk art as well as British and American fine and decorative arts from 1670-1840. Celebrating its 60-year anniversary in 2017, the Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is the oldest continuously operating institution of its kind in the U.S. Additionally, the 30-year-old Wallace Decorative Arts Museum features ceramics, furniture, maps, numismatics, paintings, silver, textiles, tools, weapons and a slew of other media representing the American revolutionary period and aftermath.

The CHC will increase gallery space in the museums by 22 percent, as well as adding a new entryway. “Annual visitation … has been on the rise for several years, but that growth will accelerate with the creation of a more visible and guest-friendly entrance, expanded exhibition galleries and improved guest services,” says Ronald L. Hurst, the foundation’s Carlisle Humelsine chief curator and vice president for collections, conservation and museums. “The expansion means the creation of dedicated gallery spaces for fine art, costumes, archaeological artifacts, weapons, numismatics and a host of other materials that are now too rarely seen.”

The New York-based architectural firm Samuel Anderson Architects, has been contracted to design the additions. Construction is expected to last through 2019. ColonialWilliamsburg.com

This article was updated on Jan. 11, 2017

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