Collections & Exhibits
Plimoth Plantation curates and maintains numerous archaeological collections related to Historic Patuxet and Plymouth Colony in the 17th-century and earlier. In addition, the museum preserves collections related to the way these stories have been told and reinterpreted over the last 400 years and how that reflects America’s own changing national identity. The care of these collections and the research done by the interpretive staff at the museum are aided by a number of institutional and research archives that are kept in the Research Library.
(Cooking Pot, c. 1500.)
Currently on exhibit in the Shelby Cullom Davis gallery through November 2021.
History in a New Light demonstrates how the modern town of Plymouth has been shaped by the ways humans have lived along these shores for thousands of years, and how this land continues to reveal stories of a transcultural Indigenous-Colonial regional society. By using multiple lines of evidence, including archaeology, documentary research, oral history, and fine and decorative arts, the exhibition shows how each thread contributes something unique to Plimoth Plantation’s understanding, re-creation, and interpretation of the past.
Rather than a traditional commemorative 400th-anniversary exhibit, History in a New Light is forward-looking and invites visitors to consider how the past serves as a foundation for the future. It is also distinctive as the first major exhibit displaying artifacts from the Wampanoag village of Patuxet and the site of the original 1620 European settlement, which were discovered in 2016 by Project 400 archaeologists, an ongoing archaeological research initiative conducted in partnership with the Andrew Fiske Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Massachusetts - Boston, the Town of Plymouth, and Plimoth Plantation. In addition to finding the first evidence of these overlapping settlements, this research has forced scholars to reevaluate their understanding of daily life in early Plymouth and the nature of colonial and indigenous interactions.
Collections & Archives
Plimoth Plantation maintains one of the most significant repositories of New England 17th-Century Archaeology. The museum houses the artifacts and field data for nine colonial-period sites. In addition, the collection of Indigenous materials created by the museum’s founder Henry Hornblower II, his mentor Jesse Brewer, and additional avocational archaeologists from the Plymouth Area are housed in Plimoth Plantation’s repository.
*Please Note*: at this time the museum is working to digitize most of its archaeological holdings and they are of limited availability to researchers. In addition, the museum is not currently accepting new archaeological collections without consultation with the Collections Committee.
(L-R: Stone Point from the Eel River Site; Archaeological Mapping Documents.)
17th-Century Originals Collection
The museum collects and preserves examples of original 17th-century objects and art. These include objects related to food and dining, tools, armaments and armor, furniture, embroidered samplers, paintings, and engravings. These items are used by the museum’s artisans in the recreation and reproduction of 17th-century material culture for our interpretive sites and our gift shops.
(Salt-glazed stoneware Bartmann jugs.)
Mayflower II Collection & Archives
The recreation and sailing of the ship Mayflower in 1957 was well documented both by the craftspeople involved, the crew, and the media who followed the initial voyage and subsequent voyages. Plimoth Plantation maintains a collection of both recreation and contemporary navigation equipment from the 1957 sail, costumes worn by the crew members, and commemorative materials related to the 1957 sail. In addition, the Mayflower II archive contains documents, news articles, photographs, charts, and blueprints related to Mayflower II, it’s construction and sailing.
Pilgrim Memorabilia Collection
In addition to 17th-century materials, the museum collects objects related to America’s relationship to the Plymouth story over the last 400 years. This collection includes documents and photographs related to commemorative events, media produced about Plymouth Colony, decorative and child-related items, and materials relating to the evolution of Thanksgiving as an American holiday.
More generally, the museum maintains archives related to its various large-scale research projects and collections. These archives cover topics as broad as research on the Eastern Woodlands Peoples of New England, the places and dialects of regions where the Mayflower passengers originated, Documents pertaining to Mayflower II, and Plimoth Plantation’s institutional history.
*Please note*: Because of their internal nature, Plimoth Plantation Institutional Records are restricted use. All research requests to use these materials by researchers other than Plimoth Plantation employees must be approved by Executive Leadership.
Eastern Woodlands Research Archive (Finding Aid coming soon!)
Pilgrim Memorabilia Archives (Finding Aid coming soon!)
Plimoth Plantation Institutional Archives (Finding Aid coming soon!)
Archaeological Archives (Finding Aid coming soon!)
The research library is open by appointment only. If you are interested in conducting research with the collections at Plimoth Plantation, please fill out the museum’s research request form. Staff is also available to answer research inquiries. Because of the volume of requests, please allow at least two weeks for a response.
- Curatorial staff is available by email at email@example.com or by phone at (508) 746-1622 x8379
- Library staff are available by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (508) 746-1622 x8379
Scholar's Residence - the Hornblower House
Visiting Scholars and Research Fellows can request accommodations at our Scholar's Residence at The Center for Seventeenth-Century Studies at Plimoth (The Center). The Center is a collaborative community of scholars and lifelong learners who amplify Plimoth Plantation’s living history offerings, originals and archaeological collections, research, and oral histories to stimulate thought-provoking conversations that interpret 17th - Century Atlantic World experiences and apply that knowledge and understanding to today’s world.
The Scholar's Residence can accommodate up to 19 scholars, interns, research fellows, and industry thought-leaders in rooms with single, double, triple, and quad occupancy. Most rooms have an en suite bathroom and those which do not have easy to shared on-hall bathrooms. All residents have access to the shared kitchen, including cook and dishware, and laundry machines. The first floor - which includes common living space, the kitchen, a shared bathroom, and 2 bedrooms - is ADA accessible. For more information about rates and availability, please email email@example.com.
Donating Materials to Plimoth Plantation’s Collections
The museum is honored that you would consider donating items to further our educational and collections mission. All offers of objects and documents are evaluated by the Collections Committee and Board of Trustees with the provision of a photograph and information about the item’s provenance.
At this time, the museum is only acquiring items that enhance our 17th-Century Originals Collection. For those wishing to donate materials for the 17th-Century Originals Collection, please also include an assessment by a professional appraiser with experience in appraising 17th-century materials. Plimoth Plantation is unable to provide monetary valuations or identification information of any materials. Please make all inquiries about collections donations to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (508) 746-1622 x 8379