1619 was a pivotal year in Virginia, the first permanent English colony in North America. This “red-letter year” brought the following historical events:
• First Representative Legislative Assembly in the New World
• Arrival of the first recorded Africans to English North America
• Recruitment of English women in significant numbers
• First official English Thanksgiving in North America
• Laws enacted that fostered entrepreneurial and innovative spirit of the Virginia colony
2019 American Evolution commemorates these events and the themes that grow out of them: Democracy, Diversity, and Opportunity. No one theme could have evolved without the contribution of the others.
This exhibit shows Newbern and the New River Valley as models of this evolutionary process. What was happening in this area happened throughout Virginia and throughout the country as a whole.
Viewers are invited to consider how these themes intersect, overlap, and feed each other as we tell the local stories of American Evolution.
Into the Wilderness — On permanent display at the museum, Into the Wilderness traces the history of the western spur of one of America’s first highway systems. This road, formed along ancient animal trails and Iroquois footpaths, ran from Philadelphia, down through Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, then forked, turning west toward the wilderness of Kentucky and beyond. Known as the Great Philadelphia Road, the Great Wagon Road, or sometimes simply the Wilderness Road, the road played a major role in the settling of America. The exhibit traces this richly drawn tale of American expansion and commerce, explaining the early development of the road and the reasons that tens of thousands moved up and down the road during the 18th and 19th centuries.Hance Store Exhibit–The building that houses the Wilderness Road Regional Museum was once a store owned by Henry Hance, son of Newbern’s founder. The new exhibit recreates the Hance Store of the early nineteenth century. One of the most unique attractions is the original ledger Hance used to keep track of purchases made by specific customers. There are names of townspeople, which items they bought, and how the account was paid. This artifact recently won the honor of being placed on the Top 10 Endangered Artifacts by the Virginia Association of Museums. Our new exhibit features many of the items that the store would have sold–antique jars that hold spices, hanging herbs, tools, period clothing, and blankets.