Recent Exhibit

Wilton Uncovered:

Archeology Illuminates an Enslaved Community

March 2021 – March 2023

“Wilton Uncovered: Archeology Illuminates an Enslaved Community,” displays this collection for the first time alongside Dennis Winston’s poignant artistic renderings of the community that used, loved, broke, resented, played with, and discarded the artifacts.

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Past Exhibits

Wilton Uncovered

Archaeology Illuminates an Enslaved Community

In 1998, William & Mary archaeologists uncovered the material record of the lives of nearly a century of enslaved families. This excavation recovered not only the most important available tool for understanding daily life at Wilton, but the largest collection of objects associated with Wilton’s original location in existence.  “Wilton Uncovered: Archeology Illuminates an Enslaved Community,” displays this collection for the first time alongside Dennis Winston’s poignant artistic renderings of the community that used, loved, broke, resented, played with, and discarded the artifacts.

Admission to Wilton Uncovered is included with your house tour.

Can’t join us in person? Visit the exhibition online at

March 1, 2021

November 30, 2022

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Vivid View

The Art and Science of Paint Analysis

In collaboration with conservator Dr. Susan L. Buck, VIVID VIEW exhibits photographed paint samples from historic houses throughout Virginia. Intersecting historical style with modern science, these microscopic views into cross-sections of historical paint layers reveal macroscopic trends. Colorful, abstracted images showcase historical paint as a prominent element of interior design, dictating how historical actors lived in, re-adapted, and reflected fashionable period taste.

These colorful images of history convey practical, present-day implications for interpretation, dating, and insight into eighteenth-century buildings and interiors. Featuring paint samples from 13 historic sites both private and public, VIVID VIEW blurs the poles of art and science and highlights the latest efforts in historical preservation by revealing paint as an influential element in how we decorate and who we are.

The original structure and alterations to Wilton were extensively investigated and catalogued by the noted preservation firm Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker Architects. Architectural paint analysis, using optical microscopy techniques, has played an important role in understanding how the interior has evolved since its construction c. 1753. This analysis has also revealed the original decorations in each room, and how the rooms were repainted over time. Remarkably, the original paints survive in every room, as do the paints and decorative finishes applied by each successive owner.

Under different magnifications and illuminations, layers of paints and varnishes tell a story about the intended color, texture, and gloss of each layer as well as how long a layer was exposed before being painted over. Using microscopes, minute dispersions of pigments from each individual layer makes it possible to identify the composition, color, relative expense, and stability of the paints applied over time. The same process can be used to identify historic textile and wallpaper fibers.

These paint cross-sections, pigments, and fibers are not only archaeological tools, they are also colorful and captivating abstract images. This dual nature is strikingly illustrated with examples from paint analysis investigations conducted at Wilton, and at other Virginia historic sites, including Mount Vernon, Monticello, Stratford Hall, Montpelier, Eppington as well as selected privately owned historic houses in Virginia.

VIVID VIEW is made possible in part through the generous support of James D. and Pamela J. Penny and 2012-2013 Paint Detectives Campaign.

March 31, 2017

December 1, 2017

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Miniatures from the Collection

A look at the seldom seen portrait miniatures, hollow-cuts, and silhouettes in the Wilton House Museum Collection.

November 11, 2016

February 26, 2017

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You & i are…Earth

You & i are…Earth explores the ceramic medium as a record of human experience embodied in the objects of our lives, from those we discard to what we cherish, revere, and protect. Themes of race, culture, and social justice explored by internationally recognized contemporary artist Michelle Erickson’s 21st-century narratives provide a provocative lens within the intimate context of an 18th-century family and household to reflect on our present historical moment.

April 15, 2016

October 30, 2016

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Collecting Neoclassical Maryland and Virginia 1790 – 1820

This exhibition explores furniture made in Virginia and Maryland from 1790-1820. Sharing the borders of the nation’s new capital, and home to the thriving cities of Richmond and Baltimore, the furniture produced in these two states expressed Neoclassical taste with a Southern accent. This exhibition comprises 12 objects on loan from the private collecting of Michael Phillips whose passion for the topic is expressed not only in his collection but also in his willingness to share it with the public.

After the American Revolution the young republic sought to define their national character. They turned to ancient Greece and Rome for inspiration in the creation of civic buildings, agrarian villas, dress, and the fine and decorative arts. Classical forms, ornament, and proportions were adapted to contemporary life. Sometimes classical forms were recreated, such as the Grecian couch. Most often, items such as card tables and sideboards were decorated with classical ornaments. This Neoclassical taste of straight lines and flat, often painted, ornamentation was particularly well-suited to Southern tastes, where a preference for what was called the neat and plain style was long in favor.

Thank you to the collaborative support of The Decorative Arts Trust and to the exhibition’s lender Michael Phillips.

October 10, 2015

February 21, 2016

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Anywhere But Now

Anywhere But Now — an installation of contemporary art in the late 18th-century domestic structure of Wilton House Museum — unquestionably disrupts the illusion of stepping back in time. The artworks included in the exhibition variously draw attention to the mutability of remembrance. They show that recollections and representations of the past can be reverent, sentimental, critical, and humorous. They suggest that contemporary perceptions of the past also are inextricably associated with forgetting, sometimes willful and other times unintended. Such loss can be soothing, suspicious, or enraging. It can also be generative.

This exhibition is curated by graduate students in the Department of Art History at Virginia Commonwealth University.

November 7, 2014

January 15, 2015

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Randolph Family Reunion

This exhibition reunites three centuries of Randolphs through their stories, contributions, and personal affects. What their stories and actions provide are copious accounts of information on how the Randolphs and their heirs refused to be bystanders in a land that, from its infancy, grew to become a leading nation that regularly called upon its best and brightest for support and leadership.

November 2, 2013

February 3, 2014

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“Admiring the Feathered Race”

John James Audubon’s Birds of America

John James Audubon arrived in early-19th century Philadelphia with a desire to travel the country and depict its birds accurately, in both size and likeness. In the early 1820’s, after marriage, the birth of his children, and a series of failed ventures, Audubon began to pursue his dream. With the help of his self-designed technique of creating models, he revolutionized the tradition of bird illustration and brought life and vitality to his drawings. Audubon’s Birds of America (1827-1838) consists of 435 life-sized engravings, and established his legacy as an ornithologist, scientist, artist, and environmentalist.

April 20, 2013

August 4, 2013

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Designed to Perfection

Mark Catesby’s Natural History

Wilton commemorates the 300th anniversary of Catesby’s arrival in Virginia in 1712 with an exhibition featuring nearly fifty etchings from this seminal work along with prints by other notable naturalists of England and North America, including one from Audubon’s legendary Birds of America. Surveying Catesby’s influence both as a scientific and artistic endeavor, this exhibit also shines light on how the publication of his work, featuring a 1754 edition, reflected on questions of wealth and status.

October 25, 2012

February 3, 2013

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