Built in 1957 by the Commonwealth of Virginia to celebrate Jamestown's 350th anniversary, this living-history museum shows you what the settlers' three ships, their colony, and a typical Powhatan Indian village looked like, and costumed interpreters demonstrate how they lived back then.
The entrance building shows a 20-minute film, 1607: A Nation Takes Root, about Jamestown and has museum galleries featuring artifacts, documents, decorative objects, dioramas, and graphics relating to the Jamestown period. Don't miss the exact reproduction of the deerskin-and-seashells cape worn by Powhatan, father of Pocahontas (the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England, has the original).
Leaving the museum complex, you'll come directly into the Powhatan Indian Village, representing the culture and technology of a highly organized chiefdom of 32 tribes that inhabited coastal Virginia in the early 17th century. There are several mat-covered lodges, which are furnished as dwellings, as well as a vegetable garden and a circle of carved ceremonial posts. Historical interpreters tend crop, tan animal hides, and make bone and stone tools and pottery. The exhibits are interactive, assigning such activities as having you use a shell to scrape the fur off deerskin. Children are more likely to enjoy a visit here than to Historic Jamestowne.
Triangular James Fort is a re-creation of the one constructed by the Jamestown colonists in the spring of 1607. Inside the wooden stockade are primitive wattle-and-daub structures with thatched roofs representing Jamestown's earliest buildings. Interpreters are engaged in activities typical of early-17th-century life, such as agriculture, military activities (including firing muskets), carpentry, blacksmithing, and meal preparation.
A short walk from James Fort are reproductions of the three ships, the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery, that transported the 104 colonists to Virginia. Boarding and exploring the ships will give you an appreciation of the hardships they endured even before they reached the hostile New World.
A guided 1 1/2-hour tour is the best way to take all this in. They are given several times a day.