July 13, 2007

Jamestown at the Hungtington

Exhibition Examines the Colony’s Role in the Nation’s Early DevelopmentEarly Jamestown, Va., was the place where John Smith met Pocahontas, where settlers discovered the value of growing tobacco, and where the English permitted their colonists to practice self-government. But the fact that the colony survived long enough to achieve any of those distinctions, much less to have an anniversary worth celebrating 400 years later, is something of an accomplishment in itself.

“Jamestown was, in fact, a notorious hellhole perched on the edge of a swamp,” says Peter Mancall, professor of history at the University of Southern California and director of the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute. Typhoid fever and famine wiped out a large percentage of the population each year, he notes. And by 1622, just a generation into settlement there, the Europeans and Indians were at war in a conflict that would ultimately leave hundreds of settlers and natives dead.

Mancall is the guest curator of the new exhibition “Jamestown at 400: Natives and Newcomers in Early Virginia,” on view from July 7 through Jan. 14, 2008, in the West Hall of the Library. The exhibit is co-curated by Robert C. Ritchie, The Huntington’s W.M. Keck Foundation Director of Research. (The show is a companion exhibition to “Legacy and Legend” in the MaryLou and George Boone Gallery, which also marks the 400th anniversary of Jamestown by examining European depictions of Native Americans across four centuries.)

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