Colonial Williamsburg: Historic Threads

Due to my life-long obsession of Colonial Williamsburg, I decided to do an evaluation of their online exhibit called “Colonial Williamsburg’s Museum Collection- Historic Threads: Three Centuries of Clothing.” You can take a look at the exhibit here.  I honestly think that this is one of the best online exhibits I have run into in a long time, although maybe I’m a little biased since it’s Williamsburg. Right away, viewers see a clean, yet vibrant introductory page that provides the exhibit title, a brief explanation of the exhibit, and easy to read links. Visually, this page (and actually the entire exhibit) is absolutely beautiful. There are then two directions the viewer can go: “learn about the clothing and styles” or “explore highlights of our collection.” The “Learn” section simply, yet extensively describes types of clothing and accessories in Williamsburg’s extensive collection. The narration is impressive, engaging, and educational. I believe navigating throughout this section would also be easy for different generations. The “Explore” section is also great, as viewers have a chance to see and engage with actually pieces of CW’s collection. You can simply filter the objects by gender and age, type, date, and geography. This process honestly felt similar to the online shopping process (I’m referring to shopping because the similarity makes it easy for viewers to navigate through this section). Each collection object’s image is great quality and next to the image, the exhibit provides a title, key terms, a brief description, and accession number.

There was also a physical exhibit at Colonial Williamsburg in 2002 called “The Language of Clothing,” highlighting their 18th and 19th century clothing collection, as well as an exhibit called “Fashion Accessories from Head to Toe: 1600 to 1840” in 2011. However, this online exhibit provides the public, regardless of where they live, a chance to visually see and learn from CW’s extensive clothing and accessories collection. While the online exhibit lacks a sense of scale and presence that only a physical exhibit can provide, I believe that the online exhibit provides more educational tools for the viewers. Viewers also have the opportunity to easily navigate throughout the site and learn on their own pace.

My only critique is I wished the online exhibit went a little more in depth about African Americans and Native Americans, although their only paragraph long description does not surprise me. CW has had a long struggle of including the African American and Native American narrative, although they have made great strides at their site. Hopefully, they will continue to expand this onto their online presence.



Wisconsin native- Go Pack Go! Tennis player. Aspiring Public Historian.

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