February 19, 2008
CW's interactive Web site brings 18th century to 21st
Colonial Williamsburg is more than the 301-acre Historic Area school children visit on field trips. A creative and comprehensive media-rich Web site entices kids of all ages to jump into its interactivity to participate in history through games, downloads, puzzles, virtual museum exhibitions and more. www.history.org opens a world of sounds, sights, games and activities that make learning about America’s colonial past fun.
“Kids Zone,” www.history.org/kids/index.cfm, introduces children to rare breeds of farm animals, historic trades and real events through imaginative games which require hand-eye coordination, patience, creativity and quick thinking. A paper doll game allows the player to use her imagination to dress a paper doll, and in the process she’ll learn the names of the parts of clothing and why children dressed as they did in colonial times. In the word game “Pardon or Pillory,” the player must guess the correct letters for the word to keep the colonist out of the pillory.
“History may be old, but the presentation shouldn’t be,” said Robyn Eoff, Colonial Williamsburg’s director of Internet. “We’re using the Web to reach kids who’ve used computers most of their lives. Interactive games, podcasts, e-cards, ringtones, jigsaw puzzles, screensavers – these are all things young people see every day. We’re using technology to expose younger audiences to history and make it entertaining, and our feedback tells us it’s working.”
“Dirt Detective” allows the player to be a junior archaeologist and think about how we learned about people of the past from studying what they left behind. There’s the chance to write in colors with a quill pen and print the artwork and the opportunity to create and send an electronic postcard with the Kids Zone characters.
Multimedia pages offer kids – and adults – a daily jigsaw puzzle of Colonial Williamsburg images. Video clips bring to life a variety of choices – Electronic Field Trips, the visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, a cooper making a barrel and the fireworks of Grand Illumination, to name a few. Weekly podcasts feature interviews with everyone from the curator of historic interiors to the manager of rare breeds, as well as tradesmen, architects, musicians, interpreters and historians.
www.history.org/media/downloads.cfm offers a choice of Colonial Williamsburg images to use as wallpaper and screensavers. A selection of harpsichord music, the sound of fifes and drums or inspiring words such as Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” speech can be sent to your cell phone to announce calls in place of the ubiquitous electronic tones.
For those who want to delve deep into history, virtual exhibitions are available for exploration. “Coins & Currency in Colonial America” is an interactive online exhibit that examines the diverse types of money jingling in the pockets and purses of our colonial ancestors and how the varied coins they exchanged influenced the currency we carry today. A glossary, timeline, relative scale and value charts, zooming capability and sidebars add layers of discovery to the expansive exhibit, found at www.history.org/history/museums/coinExhibit/.
“Mapping Colonial America,” www.history.org/history/museums/maps, explores Colonial Williamsburg's map collection from 1587 to 1782. The online exhibition looks at maps relating to colonial discovery, exploration, boundary disputes, navigation, trade, the French and Indian War, and the Revolutionary War. The exhibition features a zooming tool allowing a close look at map details, a glossary of terms, and a timeline of major events in history that occurred near the date a particular map was drawn.
Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture — stories of our journey to become Americans – while historic tradespeople research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution for its guests, it also invites them to interact with history. “Revolutionary City®” – a dramatic live street theater presentation – is a 2008 Rand McNally Best-of-the-Road™ Editor’s Pick. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at www.history.org.