Alexandria Archaeology Museum

Visit the Alexandria Archaeology Museum to learn how the City’s archaeologists, volunteers and students work with residents and developers to study and manage archaeological resources important to the community's past.

Page updated on Jan 23, 2017 at 12:15 PM

Save Our ShipSave Our Ship Conservation Fund

The historic ship discovered on Alexandria's waterfront needs your help!  Early Alexandrians sunk this vessel on the Potomac mudflats over 200 years ago. Archaeologists unearthed the ship, temporarily saving it from destruction. We need your help to ensure the preservation of the fragile wood timbers for future generations to study and appreciate.

Please make a generous donation to the Save Our Ship Conservation Fund

Alexandria Archaeology Museum image

Visiting the Museum

The main exhibit, Archaeologists at Work: The Lee Street Site, highlights one city block to provide a fascinating glimpse of Alexandria's history and the way in which archaeologists study the past. Small "table top" exhibits feature other Alexandria sites and finds. Hands-on activities engage visitors of all ages.  Learn more about exhibits. 

18th-century ship, Photo, courtesy, Anna Frame.Nautical Discoveries at S. Union Street

Learn about the exciting nautical discoveries being made along the Waterfront. Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of the hull of a fifty-foot vessel on the Indigo Hotel construction site at 220 S. Union Street. Scuttled sometime in the late eighteenth century, the ship served as the framework for part of the landfill process that extended the waterfront out to the deep channel of the Potomac River.  Watch a video of this exciting discovery. Earlier finds at this site include the  1755 public warehouse.

Staying Informed

  • Find us on Facebook Find us on Facebook .
  • Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Twitter @AlexArchaeology.
  • Read the  Alexandria Archaeology Volunteer News.
  • Sign up for eNews: Select alerts from Alexandria Archaeology to receive occasional emails about events, news of our work and archaeology in the region, and the quarterly Newsletter, Alexandria Archaeology Volunteer News . At the same time, you can sign up for Historic Alexandria alerts to receive This Week in Historic Alexandria and Press Releases from the Historic Alexandria Museums.
  • Visit the Friends of Alexandria Archaeology website.

Museum Exhibits

The Museum Exhibits highlight the process of archaeology and the latest Alexandria finds. A Community Digs its Past: The Lee Street Site, the Museum's main exhibit, weaves the story of the wharves, taverns, bakery and Civil War privy excavated at the corner of Lee and Queen Streets together with the story of archaeologists at work, from excavation, to historical research, artifact processing, and archaeological conservation. In the Museum's Public Laboratory, Saturdays are the best time to find volunteers washing, marking and cataloguing artifacts from the latest dig. On other days we may just be working on our computers, but please ask about our current projects. Participate in Hands-on Activities, and explore small Temporary Exhibits highlighting archaeological research. 

Opportunities to Participate

  • Summer Camp:  This popular program provides an opportunity for 12-15 year olds to work on a real archaeological dig. Read our 2013 Summer Camp Blog and see Camp photos on the Alexandria Archaeology Museum's Facebook page. This year's camp takes place July 17-21, 2017.
  • Lectures and Other Events: Check our calendar for upcoming lectures, volunteer orientations, Commission meetings and more.
  • Family Dig Days: Help City archaeologists screen excavated soil during a real dig on the grounds of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial! Space is limited and reservations are required. This popular program fills early! Dates for 2016 are June 18, July 9, August 6, September 10, October 1, and October 15.
  • Volunteer: Check out volunteer opportunities to see how you can help Alexandria Archaeology.
  • Historical Archaeology Field Institute: Earn credit through the George Washington University University for this two-week intensive field school, offering a hands-on experience in excavation and laboratory study of an archaeological site. Monday – Friday, May 22-26 and May 30 – June 3, 2017 (10-day course).

Current Projects

  • Archaeological Discoveries on the Waterfront. Read about the recent discovery of the 1755 town wharf. As waterfront development proceeds, Alexandria Archaeology will update this web page to provide photos and possible interpretations of the archaeological finds as they are unearthed on the waterfront projects. The excavations have the potential to elucidate many themes significant to the city's history and to unearth evidence of early wharves and piers, derelict vessels, early industries, and commercial and domestic activities.
  • The Alexandria Waterfront History Plan was prepared by the Alexandria Archaeological Commission as a general framework and direction for the City's Waterfront Plan. Learn more about  The Historic Alexandria Waterfront.
  • Shuter's Hill was once again the site of archaeological research and excavations in 2016. This ongoing excavation, now in its 18th season, is exploring the Mills/Lee/Dulaney plantation on the grounds of the George Washington Masonic Memorial. The mansion house was built in 1782 and burned in 1842, and was replaced by a larger brick house that was used by Union troops during the Civil War. Shuter's Hill also became the site of two Union forts in the Defenses of Washington.
  • Fort Ward Park History and Archaeology. In the last several years, excavations have focused on the 20th century African American community known as The Fort. This community is the focus of an effort by the Office of Historic Alexandria to study and preserve the post-Civil War historic resources of Fort Ward Park. Archaeological excavations in the park, historical research, and oral histories highlight our growing knowledge of this community. Learn about the  Stakeholder Advisory Group , and about archaeological and historical research, including reports on excavations, transcriptions of oral history interviews with former residents. Visit Fort Ward Park to see new historic signage highlighting The Fort community. A copy of The Fort Heritage Trail Brochure  is available online.    

Contrabands & Freedmen Cemetery Memorial

  • The Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery Memorial was officially opened on September 6, 2014. Learn about the Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery Memorial  history and archaeology of the site, view the extensive news coverage of the commemoration ceremonies, and watch short videos about the Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery Memorial on Comcast Newsmakers , of interviews with Char McCargo Bah, Audrey Davis and Francine Bromberg.
  • Archaeology at Contrabands & Freedmen Cemetery: Learn about the archaeological studies conducted between 1996 and 2007 that provided tangible evidence of the cemetery's survival after more than 125 years of neglect and destruction. Of the approximately 1,800 graves once located in the cemetery, more than 500 were identified through archaeological investigations. The goals of the archaeological investigations focused on the identification of burial locations to ensure protection during development, future maintenance of the site, and the recovery of information about the cemetery for use in the memorial design process.

Archaeology and the Civil War in Alexandria

  • Civil War Hospitals in Alexandria. This resource, compiled by staff and volunteers at the Alexandria Archaeology Museum, includes historical information on Alexandria's Civil War hospitals and rest camps, first-person accounts, historic images, Quartermaster maps, and images of the sites today.
  • Diaries of Julia Wilbur, March 1860 to July 1866 . Transcribed by Alexandria Archaeology, 2013-2014, from the originals in the Quaker Collection, Haverford College, PA. Julia Wilbur, a relief worker from Rochester, NY, came to Alexandria during the Civil War. She kept a detailed diary from the 1840s through her death in 1895. Alexandria Archaeology's transcriptions focus on the period right before, during, and after the War.
  • Civil War Sundays. Explore the Civil War in Alexandria with Civil War Sundays, a showcase of an original May 26, 1861, edition New-York Tribune detailing Colonel Elmer Ellsworth's death in Alexandria, a Peeps Diorama  illustrating Ellsworth's death, an exhibit featuring a Civil War drummer boy, diorama of a heating system constructed in Alexandria to warm Civil War hospital tents during the winter of 1861, a cocked and loaded Wickham musket discarded in a privy during the 1860s, and an exhibit on the Lee Street Site during the Civil War. Free! Weekly, 1-5 p.m.
  • Alexandria Civil War Defenses of Washington Bike Trail. To mark the Civil War Sesquicentennial, Alexandria, surrounding jurisdictions and the National Park Service created the the Civil War Defenses of Washington Bike Trail. A map, cue sheet and information on Civil War sites are provided for self-guided bike rides.

Other News and Information

  • Potomac Yard: Potomac Yard History and Archaeology :  Preview seven historical signs placed at Potomac Yard in 2012, or visit Potomac Yards to see the signs in person. Throughout ongoing development of Potomac Yard, the Office of Historic Alexandria has been committed to preserving its history. Learn more about the Potomac Yard planning and development process, and read a history of the site  by City Archaeologist Francine Bromberg.
  • Shield's Folly: Shields's Folly: A Bathhouse in Old Town . A deep feature discovered in a Royal Street basement in 2014 may be from an aborted effort to dig a well for Thomas Shields's bathhouse 200 years earlier. Read more about this discovery.
  • Twenty Five Years and Counting (2014): The Alexandria Archaeological Protection Code has served as a preservation model for local jurisdictions across the nation. In 2014, the City of Alexandria celebrated the 25th anniversary of its 1989 passage. Learn more about the impact of this important legislation.
  • 50th Anniversary (2011): Learn more about Alexandria Archaeology's first 50 years (1961-2011).
  • History Through Public Archaeology: Municipal Archaeology Programs and the Creation of Community Amenities. Article by Douglas R. Appler exploring how municipal archaeology programs found in Alexandria, Virginia; St. Augustine, Florida; and Phoenix, Arizona have played a prominent role in developing unique, place-based amenities that integrate local history with other community needs.


Alexandria Archaeology Museum
Third Floor of the Torpedo Factory Art Center
105 N. Union Street, #327
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Phone: 703.746.4399

Mailing Address:
City of Alexandria, Virginia
Office of Historic Alexandria/Alexandria Archaeology
105 North Union Street, #327
Alexandria, VA 22314

Museum Hours

Museum Hours
Sunday 1 to 5 p.m.
Monday closed
Tuesday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Wednesday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Thursday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Friday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Closed New Year's Day, Easter, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas

Office Hours
Tuesday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., by appointment

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American Alliance of Museums
Accredited Museum