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Current Exhibits
at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum

  • China of the Most Fashionable Sort: Chinese Export Porcelain in Colonial America

    China of the Most Fashionable Sort:
    Chinese Export Porcelain in Colonial America

    Chinese export porcelain played an important role in the lives of 18th-century colonists. It was the most desirable of the ceramic bodies, and possessing it indicated wealth and status. This exhibit illustrates the wide variety of Chinese porcelain that was available in colonial America with a particular focus on pieces with histories in Virginia. Objects recovered from archaeological excavations are also featured.

    Opens March 19, 2014 – ongoing exhibition

  • A Handsome Cupboard of Plate: Early American Silver in the Cahn Collection

    A Handsome Cupboard of Plate:
    Early American Silver in the Cahn Collection

    The Cahn collection of early American silver celebrates both American history and craftsmanship. The loan exhibition of 40 pieces includes significant works by such masters as Jeremiah Drummer and Paul Revere Jr. of Boston and Joseph Richardson Sr. of Philadelphia. Also featured are products of the New York workshops of Jewish silversmith Myer Myers and his contemporaries.

    Organized by the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

    May 3, 2014, through May 25, 2015

  • Furniture

    A Rich and Varied Culture:
    The Material World of the Early South

    This wide-ranging new exhibition celebrates the remarkable arts and antiques that were created in or imported to the Chesapeake, the Carolina Low Country, and Southern Backcountry. Created in conjunction with two dozen partner institutions and private collectors, the exhibition highlights the aesthetic diversity brought to the region by the varied cultures and ethnic groups that ultimately defined a unique, early southern style.

    The exhibition was made possible by Carolyn and Michael McNamara.

    Ongoing exhibition

  • Changing Keys: Keyboard Instruments for America, 1700–1830

    Changing Keys:
    Keyboard Instruments for America, 1700–1830

    This exhibition explores the evolution of spinets, harpsichords and pianos in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Featuring more than 25 instruments including spinets, harpsichords, and pianos, ranging in date from 1700 to 1830, the instruments are drawn from Colonial Williamsburg’s significant collection of English keyboards. Many have never before been exhibited. Keyboard instruments were an integral part of the cultural milieu of Virginia’s colonial and post-colonial period. The second known public performance on a piano in America took place at the Raleigh Tavern. The exhibit explores the differences in the various types of keyboards as well as the evolution of the instrument over time. Sound sticks allow you to listen to many of the instruments and two reproductions are included so that they can be played for visitors, for what is an instrument without its sound? Models of detailed aspects of the keyboard allow visitors further insight into the workings of the instruments.

    Ongoing exhibition

  • Fire engine

    Richard Newsham’s Fire Engine

    Richard Newsham’s Fire Engine explores fire and fire fighting in the 18th century with the display of an original fire engine built in the mid-18th century. Williamsburg, described as "our Wooden city" in 1721, remained relatively safe until 1747 when the Capitol burned. The new Capitol was threatened in 1754. Wisely, the colony decided to invest in a proper fire engine, and the next month the Council directed "That the Receiver General send to London for a Fire Engine and Four Dozen of Leatheren Buckets for the use of the Capitol." Initially granted a patent on December 26, 1721, Richard Newsham’s “new water engine for quenching and extinguishing fires” became the clear choice for anyone in England or America who was serious about combating the flames. So effective were Newsham’s engines that some were used for more than a century. The original engine is on view for the first time.

    This exhibition was made possible by a grant from the Ambrose and Ida Frederickson Foundation.

    Ongoing exhibition

  • Coffeehouse

    Rebuilding Charlton’s Coffeehouse

    Colonial Williamsburg’s reconstruction of Charlton’s Coffeehouse is the first ground-up reconstruction along Duke of Gloucester Street in several decades. It involved the work of every department and trade in the Foundation. The exhibition explores how such a building could be so accurately constructed and furnished when seemingly very little was left of the original structure. It will use archaeological, architectural, archival, decorative arts and trades components to show visitors the process of rebuilding the history, structure, and interiors of the coffeehouse. Through video, graphics, original objects, and touchable reproductions, visitors learn firsthand what it took to bring the project to completion.

    Ongoing exhibition

  • American Furniture:  From Virginia to Vermont

    American Furniture: From Virginia to Vermont

    This exhibition in the Elizabeth Ridgely and Miodrag Blagojevich Gallery highlights pieces from three regions: Eastern Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New England. While early furniture forms and styles from these areas were similar from the late 17th through the early 19th centuries, the interpretation and the popularity of designs varied due to differences in local economies, trade settlement patterns, and the religious and cultural backgrounds of the inhabitants.

    Ongoing exhibition

  • Lock, Stock, and Barrel

    Lock, Stock, and Barrel

    This exhibition is an outstanding display of military and civilian weapons exploring muzzle-loading firearms, ignition systems, and the evolution of the standing British infantry musket before 1800.

    Ongoing exhibition

  • Revolution in Taste

    Revolution in Taste

    This exhibition dazzles with rich and colorful choices in table and tea wares available to 18th-century British and American consumers. Expanding world trade and strengthening industry put a teapot on every table -- until tea became a symbol of protest in the American Revolution.

    Ongoing exhibition



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