Tuesday, February 12, 2013

URGENT: Financing Jamestown Rediscovery

2014 will mark two major anniversaries at Historic Jamestown: the 400th of the wedding of Pocahontas and John Rolfe and the 20th of Bill Kelso’s first turn of his spade for Jamestown Rediscovery, which led to his internationally recognized and major new discoveries about the first permanent English settlement in the New World. The two decades since have seen historians gain an extraordinary, new and more informed perspective on our nation’s earliest history. These discoveries have led to an unparalleled education program as well

The commemoration of that historic wedding could not be taking place without that turn of dirt. The intertwining of these events helps us understand the need for permanent support to continue Bill’s invaluable work at Historic Jamestown. We have a critical and immediate opportunity to meet that need, by giving endorsement and support for a new entry fee structure at Historic Jamestown.

Jamestown Rediscovery’s great successes have been achieved with a succession of tenuous funding sources. It was begun with Bill’s own underwriting efforts to overcome skepticism among the site’s owners that the vestiges of James Fort remained and had not been washed into the James River, as universally presumed among almost all archaeologists of the time. The results since then have been nothing less than spectacular for a better understanding of early American history.

That precarious state of financing remains today. Preservation Virginia, which owns the site where Jamestown Rediscovery is making its discoveries, suffers from shrinking resources, as do most similar organizations. At the same time, the amazing archaeological results of these past two decades have established that there is a permanent need for continuing and expanding research. Recently, Preservation Virginia has also enlisted the managerial and logistical skills of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation to help assure long-term continuity for Jamestown Rediscovery’s team and projects.

After its study of the resources and needs, the National Park Service, the other owner of Historic Jamestown, is proposing an increase inentrance fees that would directly benefit and aid the sustenance for Jamestown Rediscovery. It is critical to Jamestown Rediscovery’s future to understand these proposed fee changes and offer support for them, at three hearings NPS has scheduled for February 14, 15 and 16 in the vicinity of Yorktown, Williamsburg and Jamestown.

Comments on the proposed fee structure will also be accepted in writing through February 28, 2013.

Comments should be submitted to P. Daniel Smith, Superintendent, Colonial National Historical Park, P.O. Box 210, Yorktown, VA 23690. Comments addressed to the Superintendent will also be accepted via e-mail at hjadmin@preservationvirginia.org.

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