The Development of Historical Research at Colonial Williamsburg
Historical research has been essential to Colonial Williamsburg's mission since its founding. This research impacts everything visitors experience in the Historic Area—from the buildings they visit to the people they meet. To bring the 18th century to life, historians identify the original residents of the city and link them to the physical evidence they have left behind.
The constant, ongoing search for more and better information influences how we answer questions about what life was like in the past. Most importantly, it helps us understand the choices Williamsburg's people made during the tumultuous times of the Revolution and the American struggle for independence.
Since 1930, researchers have unearthed details about people, places, and events in and around Williamsburg. Just as the Foundation's mission has evolved from preservation to education, ongoing historical research continues to inform programs and projects that move beyond simply celebrating the ideals of the Revolution to thinking deeply about the motivations and legacies of the founding generation. Historical research puts recovered objects in individuals' hands and places occupants in their reconstructed or restored houses. Visitors to Colonial Williamsburg and participants in our educational programs learn not only about the ideas that launched the American Revolution, but the real people and events that shaped those ideas. This history is still with us as we continue to debate the legacy of America's founding and about the meanings of citizenship, democracy, and liberty.