Exhibits at the Alexandria Archaeology Museum

Exhibits at the Alexandria Archaeology Museum tell the story of archaeologists and volunteers working to bring Alexandria’s buried past to light, through research and excavation.

Page updated on Mar 15, 2020 at 8:31 PM

Visiting the Museum

In addition to viewing the exhibits, visitors can learn about the archaeological process by talking with volunteers and professional archaeologists at work in the museum’s public laboratory.

Preserving Maritime HeritagePreserving Maritime Heritage

Development along the waterfront has led to significant discoveries by archaeologists, including the remains of four historic ships. Follow the story of the city’s maritime heritage from excavation to preservation. View a model of one of the historic vessels and find out how archaeologists are answering questions about the age and use of the ships, and what role they may have played in Alexandria’s 18th and 19th century economies.

Learn more about the archaeology along the waterfront

Museum 2019A Community Digs its Past: The Lee Street Site

Preserved on the Lee Street Site was a cross-section of Alexandria's history from its founding in 1749 into the 20th century. Eighteenth-century wharves remained intact below remnants of a bakery, taverns, and residences that had sprung up on the bustling waterfront. The block was later used by the Union Army as a hospital support facility for the huge influx of soldiers during the Civil War. These layers of time were preserved under shallow foundations and a paved parking lot. The exhibit weaves together the story of the wharves, taverns, bakery and Civil War privy excavated at the corner of Lee and Queen Streets with the step-by-step process of archaeology from research and excavation to lab work and conservation.

Read A Community Digs its Past: The Lee Street Site, an 18-page booklet accompanying the exhibition.

The Public Laboratory 2019The Public Laboratory

The museum is also home to the Alexandria Archaeology lab. On certain days you may see professional archaeologists and trained volunteers washing and identifying artifacts from city archaeology sites, or researching the history of people and properties using tax records and other primary sources. 

The Museum exhibits some artifacts, and lends others for exhibition at other museums. Most of the collection is housed in a climate-controlled storage facility, in archival packaging. The Alexandria Archaeology Storage Facility houses more than 3,000 boxes, containing more than two million individual artifacts.

Museum Day 2019, Hands-on ActivitiesHands-on Activities

Archaeology is more than excavation. Discover how archaeologists learn from sites by testing your skill at artifact identification and analysis, dating wood with dendrochronology, and mending ceramics with our modern broken plates. 

The Alexandria Heritage Trail

In the hallway adjacent to the Museum, learn about the Alexandria Heritage Trail, a 23-mile tour of Alexandria’s history, and read about some of the many sites along the trail. The accompanying book is out of print, but may still be available from online resellers.

Walk and Bike the Alexandria Heritage Trail, A Guide to Exploring a Virginia Town's Hidden Past. By Pamela J. Cressey, 2002. Capital Books, Inc., Sterling VA, $11.95. 

Temporary Exhibits

Visitors can view artifacts from current excavations, lab projects or research, and a few of our most popular finds, displayed in two glass cases and an array of tabletop exhibits.

  • Mercy Street Uncovered: Archaeology in Civil War Alexandria. Explore artifacts discovered from during excavations of the remains of a Civil War hospital and privy. Learn more about Alexandria's  Civil War Hospitals, and don’t miss the special self-guided Civil War Hospital walking tour

  • A Clovis Point is the oldest artifact found in Alexandria. See this 13,000-year-old artifact and other prehistoric stone tools found at the  Freedmen’s Cemetery and Jones Point Park sites during building of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.