Mason Joins in Jamestown’s 400th Anniversary Commemoration

Posted: March 5, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Jamestown’s 400th Anniversary commemoration began last spring when the newly commissioned replica of Godspeed set sail for a voyage to six major ports along the Eastern seaboard. The ship now makes her home at the Jamestown Settlement in Williamsburg, Va.
Photo courtesy Christine Lucero

By David Driver and Dave Andrews

There are dozens, even hundreds, of events across the state this year that will commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, Va.

Although Mason is about 150 miles north of Jamestown, the university will be joining in wholeheartedly to mark this year of commemorations.

Panelists Tackle the Legacy of Jamestown

To commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, the George Mason University Libraries gathered a distinguished group of panelists on March 6 to discuss the significance of the Jamestown settlement.

Roger Wilkins
Roger Wilkins moderated a panel discussion on Jamestown’s legacy.

The panelists included Randolph Scully, assistant professor in the Department of History and Art History; James Snead, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology; Landon Yarrington, student in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology; and Rosemarie Zagarri, professor in the Department of History and Art History.

During the discussion, which was moderated by Roger Wilkins, Robinson Professor of History and American Culture, Scully compared the Jamestown settlement with other early settlements in North America, and went on to speak about the contact of cultures between the English colonizers and the native Indians.

“The Jamestown settlement represented a contentious and transitional period,” Scully said. “The conflict and suffering at Jamestown were products of Englishmen’s attempts to adjust to new, unexpected circumstances and to develop a new model of permanent settlement based less on military concerns and more on the production of agricultural commodities. It also set the precedent for English colonizers’ relatively exclusionary attitudes towards Indians.”

Zagarri spoke about women and their significant roles as translators and messengers between the converging societies — specifically Pocahontas’ role in creating a climate of peace between the Jamestown colonists and the Indian tribes.

“Pocahantas acted as a cultural mediator between groups, arranging exchanges of corn and gifts and trying to maintain peace in a tense environment,” Zagarri said. “In acting as a cultural broker, Pocahantas was not alone. In many tribes, perhaps because women were viewed as less threatening than men, women were often employed as translators.”

Snead focused on the importance of archaeology and the abundance of information it produces. “This is a renaissance of sorts, as we are bringing together archaeology and history to explore the stories of Jamestown,” he said.

Yarrington, a student who led a significant archaeological dig of Jamestown in 2004, rounded out the panel by telling of his experiences in the anthropological field. As a sophomore, Yarrington led the way in 2004 to one of the most important archaeological finds at Jamestown: a wine cellar with 10 unbroken glass wine bottles. The bottles are believed to have belonged to Francis Nicholson, the governor of Virginia from 1698 to 1705.

“[Yarrington] had an incredible experience there. That is a real coup,” says Zagarri.

University Libraries are also planning a discussion in the fall that will explore how the media have portrayed Jamestown, Pocahontas and John Smith over the years 1923-2005.

Sculpture with a Jamestown Focus

Mason’s commemoration of Jamestown’s 400th anniversary will extend to the arts.

Mason, along with the University of Georgia and James Madison University, is part of the East Coast Sculpture Exchange Program, which was created to enhance public art on the participating campuses. In the program, public art designed by university faculty and students at each school will be exchanged.

R.G. Brown III, Mason’s inaugural East Coast Sculpture Exchange artist, will mark the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Jamestown with an installation on the Fairfax Campus. Brown is an associate professor of art at the University of Georgia, where he heads up the sculpture program.

Sculpture project print
University of Georgia artist R.G. Brown designed this print to inaugurate his Jamestown sculpture project, which will be installed later this month at Mason’s Fairfax Campus.
Print by R.G. Brown III

Brown’s work, “Jamestown Triangle: A 21st Century Interpretation,” revolves around a footprint, the building plan for the Jamestown Fort. The work is a metaphor for a historic place as well as the people who shaped the United States’ destiny.

The shape of the sculptural work derives from a sketch of the Jamestown Fort found on the back of an original map made by John Smith in 1608. The artist plans a 30-foot equilateral triangle reflecting the footprint of the foundation submerged beneath the soil as both a moment in time and the discovery of the past.

Mason art and visual technology students will be involved in the installation, which will take place from March 26 to 30. The students will be able to engage in a process of “unearthing” a new form through traditional means and advanced technology, including ground penetrating radar (GPR).

“I am delighted to have the opportunity to create a public art project at George Mason University in Virginia the same year as the celebration of the founding of Jamestown,” says Brown.

“I grew up in Virginia, and as every Virginian knows, the fabric of our lives is woven with the threads of Virginia history. Every school child visits Williamsburg and Jamestown sometime in their life,” he adds.

“I am an artist and have been one since childhood. Just recently, I became interested in employing archaeological practices into my artistic explorations.”

Brown’s work will be installed on the northeastern edge of the Fairfax Campus in an open field on the site of the Earl House, off Roberts Road and Willow Aspen Drive. Harold Linton, chair of the Department of Art and Visual Technology, is coordinating the installation.

Virginia’s Rich Historical Heritage

Jamestown’s 400th anniversary also provides an occasion to celebrate other aspects of Virginia’s rich history.

  • On Sunday, March 25, at 2 p.m., author and Mason Professor Emeritus Peter Henriques will examine the unique relationship between Virginian George Washington and his mother, Mary Ball Washington. The event, “Honored Maiden,” will be held at the Chinn Park Regional Library, 13065 Chinn Park Drive, Woodbridge, Va. The Prince William Public Library System will sponsor the event. For directions, see the library’s library web site or call 703-792-4800.

    “They had a very strained relationship, but there are elements of admiration as well,” says Henriques, who retired from Mason in 2003. “I will try to show that Washington did have affection for his mother.”

  • The 41st annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival will explore Virginia’s Native American, English and West African roots. The Roots of Virginia Culture will be the first time Virginia has been featured at the annual event, which runs from June 27 to July 1 and again from July 4 to 8.
  • One of the “signature” events of the Jamestown anniversary includes the visit of England’s Queen Elizabeth II to Virginia in May, with a date to be announced. This will be her fourth trip to the United States. Queen Elizabeth was also at Jamestown in 1957 for the 350th anniversary.
  • America’s Anniversary Weekend will be held May 11-13 at historic Jamestown, Jamestown Settlement and Anniversary Park. And, from April 26 to May 24, a replica of the ship Godspeed will sail from the Chesapeake Bay up the James River to re-create that 1607 voyage.

For a calendar of dozens of “Jamestown 400” events from across the state, see the anniversary web site.

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