Make The Hampton History Museum Your First Stop in Town!
The Hampton History Museum is so much more than just a small community museum - visiting it is like getting a refresher lesson in American history! I soon learned from our docent, Ed, that Hampton was positioned at the cross roads of history and was witness to some of the 19th and 20th centuries' most pivotal events.
Early Hampton History Comes to Life...
The museum starts with a reproduction Kecoughtan longhouse and includes some rare Native American artifacts. Hampton was once called Kikotan by the Kecoughtan Native Americans living in the area. English settlers landed in 1607, which makes Hampton the oldest continually occupied English-speaking settlement in the United States.
Blackbeard: Hampton's Local Bad Boy.
While Hampton has set a lot of records and is famous for many things, nothing can compare to the legacy of of the infamous pirate Blackbeard. Blackbeard's last battle took place not far from Hampton Harbour and every year his legacy is honored by the annual Hampton Pirate Festival.
Hampton's Canadian Connection.
Not all aspects of Hampton's history were quite so dramatic as Blackbeard's last stand. Hampton has played a crucial role in the tobacco and shellfish trade and in the development of photography and aviation. I especially enjoyed an exhibit on the Cheyne brothers' photography studio. These innovative Canadians captured everyday life in the area, including street scenes and working class families.
These special artifacts are made all the more precious considering that Hampton has suffered through several devastating fires throughout its long history. We were able to see some of the discoveries from nearby archaeological digs that hope to piece together slivers of the past.
"Hampton and the Contraband"
In addition to its permanent collection, the Hampton History Museum also holds special exhibits and special events. On the weekend we visited, there was a Steampunk themed evening event, as well as a very moving exhibit on the "contraband" former slaves who were housed in nearby Fort Monroe during the American Civil War. Considered contraband or spoils of war, these brave and resilient men, women, and children were seeking possible freedom when they came to the Fort and took refuge.
The contraband exhibit included a reproduction of the quarters the former slaves were housed in, as well as artifacts recovered from the site and donated by family descendants. The exhibit highlighted how many of the former slaves contributed to the Unionist war effort and the legacy of those who remained in the Hampton area.
The Best Way to Start Your Visit.
Despite the strong focus on the past, the museum itself is no relic. The displays and exhibits are beautifully curated - no dusty shelves or peeling labels here! I loved my visit to the Hampton History Museum and it was the perfect way to start our trip in the region. I would highly recommend that all first time visitors to Hampton tour the museum first before any other attractions so you'll have the necessary background information to fully appreciate all that the area has to offer. A $5 per adult, the admission price represents a tremendous value and I think it should be on everyone's must-see list.
I'd love to hear from you! How often do you visit a museum when you travel?
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My visit to the Hampton History Museum was facilitated by the Hampton Visitor's Museum. This did not influence my opinions or reviews.