STATEMENT OF DONALD J. HELLMANN, DEPUTY ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, LEGISLATIVE AND CONGRESSIONAL AFFAIRS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, HISTORIC PRESERVATION AND RECREATION, COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S. 2885, A BILL TO ESTABLISH THE JAMESTOWN 400TH COMMEMORATION COMMISSION, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

September 14, 2000


Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 2885, a bill that would establish the Jamestown 400th Commemoration Commission. The National Park Service supports enactment of this commission to commemorate the 1607 founding of Jamestown, Virginia, and believes that establishment of this commission would help ensure that we leave a lasting inheritance worthy of Jamestown’s significant place in history.

Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America, lives today in the language we speak, our common law, and our representative government. The first representative assembly held in these English colonies occurred at Jamestown in July 1619. We can trace our legislative history directly from that first assembly to here in the United States Congress today—truly a living legacy. Jamestown was Virginia’s capital for 92 years, its port, and its social and commercial center. Here the society we know today began to take shape.

Since at least 1807, Jamestown's founding has been commemorated every 50 years. In 1957, Queen Elizabeth II visited Jamestown as part of major festivities celebrating the 350th anniversary. The Commonwealth of Virginia's preparations for that anniversary included building reconstructions of the three ships that brought the 1607 colonists, the Jamestown Fort, and an Indian village. The National Park Service constructed the Jamestown Visitor Center, completed the Colonial Parkway to Jamestown, conducted archeological research, and provided visitors with paintings depicting early settlers' activities. The federal commission complemented the Commonwealth of Virginia's state commission.

Planning for commemorative activities in 2007 has been underway for several years. The state's Jamestown 2007 has held roundtables throughout Virginia to get citizen input to design a statewide commemoration. The reconstructed ships, fort, and Indian village are being rebuilt to reflect current research. Special events and outreach to schools across the nation are also being planned.

Under the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities' project "Jamestown Rediscovery," the original 1607 fort, long thought to be lost to the James River, has been found. The National Park Service has undertaken massive historical, archeological, and scientific research under its Jamestown Archeological Assessment. Together, the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities and the National Park Service have preserved nearly a million artifacts in their collections. They are now jointly planning a revitalized Jamestown Island to improve visitor experiences and understanding, and to increase protection for irreplaceable museum collections. Finally, an Internet web site has been set up to provide information to a wide range of audiences both within and outside the United States at: http://www.Jamestown2007.org/

S. 2885 would establish the Jamestown 400th Commemoration Commission, a federal commission to ensure a suitable national observance of Jamestown’s 400th anniversary in 2007. The commission would complement and coordinate the programs of the Commonwealth of Virginia, provide excellent visitor experiences, hold appropriate observances, and assist in Jamestown-related programs and activities while also facilitating international involvement. Jamestown 400th should be a truly national event so that all Americans understand the challenges our predecessors faced. Because its story has meaning outside the United States, it should be an international event as well. The commission would also support efforts for a commemorative coin, stamp, and similar efforts, and assist in the development of heritage tourism. Having a federal commission that could help coordinate all the different aspects of the commemoration would help ensure their success.

S. 2885 establishes a 16-member commission to plan, develop, and hold programs and commemorative activities for the 400th anniversary of Jamestown's founding, facilitate Jamestown-related activities throughout the United States, and encourage other groups such as civic, educational, patriotic, and historic organizations to participate in the 400th anniversary activities. The commission would coordinate and facilitate scholarly research on and publication about Jamestown, it would assist in developing appropriate programs and facilities, and it would provide for hiring staff, using state staff, and accepting volunteers. S. 2885 provides for the commission to terminate on December 31, 2008. We estimate that the commission could make a considerable contribution towards our common understanding of this shared legacy. We also believe it would facilitate fundraising by encouraging public-private partnerships. Finally, we believe the commission would help make the experiences of Jamestown’s first 92 years relevant today, to Americans who immigrated here as well as those who descended from those early inhabitants.

Establishing the Jamestown 400th Commemoration Commission would ensure that this 400th commemoration will have lasting value for all Americans by engaging the largest segment possible of this nation in this commemoration of our common heritage.

This concludes my prepared testimony, Mr. Chairman. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or the committee might have.