Hands-on archaeology at Fairfield Plantation with Dave

Adventure Details

Project Leaders:
Dave Brown
Co-Director of The Fairfield Foundation, Dave has a PhD in History from The College of William and Mary and an M.A. in History/Historical Archaeology from The University of Massachusetts at Boston. He has taught and worked in the field of archaeology since 1994, including five years with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Dave helped start and co-owns DATA Investigations LLC, a cultural resource management firm based in Gloucester County and is a founding member of the Werowocomoco Research Group, conducting research on the future national park property since 2001.  

Thane Harpole
Thane is co-Director of The Fairfield Foundation and has an M.A. in History/Historical Archaeology from The University of Massachusetts Boston. He is also owner of DATA Investigations LLC, a cultural resource management company. He runs multiple archaeological projects, including large-scale excavations focused on the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck of Virginia. Thane is a founding member of the Werowocomoco Research Group, conducting research on the future national park property since 2001.

Project Funders:
Take this opportunity to support conservation at the Fairfield Plantation

Project Partners:
The Fairfield Foundation
The Fairfield Foundation, a non-profit organization, is dedicated to archaeological and historical research, public education and preservation in Gloucester Country. Centered at the 17th- and 18th-century plantation and ancestral home of the Burwell family, Fairfield, the foundation contributes to knowledge of plantation life and supports the preservation of historic resources within the region.


Fairfield, in an 1847 plat


DBL US$940 per week | SGL $1090 per week


Scholarships and student rates available
Discounts! Past participants always receive a discounted tour fee
Check out AiP's Loyalty Program

Additional Cost Information:
All costs are per person per session

Your fee includes:

  • Lodging
  • Breakfasts and lunches
  • Excursions
  • Insurance while working at the site
  • Training and materials

Participants are responsible for:

  • Transportation to Gloucester, Virginia
  • Visas, if needed
  • Dinners
  • Travel health insurance, if coming from outside the US.

Project Background:
Review the materials in the Fairfield Plantation Education Portal and learn more about the site and ongoing archaeological investigations and conservation efforts.

volunteer archaeology historic preservation project Virginia

Linking Archaeology with Preservation Using 3D Technology

Return to Upcoming Adventures

Join this Adventure!

Our volunteer archaeology project using 3D technology at Fairfield enhances our most popular adventure – be sure to sign up early!

Dates: June 2019; August 2019

Registration Closed – 2019 Dates Coming Soon!

Learn the latest 3D technology as you help The Fairfield Foundation with archaeology and preservation fieldwork

Why Volunteer at Fairfield

Experience the thrill of using new technologies to re-discover history at Fairfield Plantation. Generous philanthropists have made a donation that funds the development of a three-dimensional model of the plantation using innovative methods. Join our volunteer archaeology project using 3D technology!

Fairfield was home to one of Virginia’s magnificent manor houses, once surrounded by 7,000 acres of tobacco fields and forestland at the heart of Gloucester County, just north of Williamsburg. Now, you can be involved in this hands-on archaeology project to digitally record, recreate, and reimagine the historic landscape at Fairfield Plantation.

David and Thane are so knowledgeable and create such a fun, engaging atmosphere. I did think going a second time would be kind of a repeat. Boy, was I wrong! You can’t dig with those guys and not learn something new. – Angie 2017

Project and Need

Archaeology at Fairfield - great fieldwork experience and fun way to get your hands on historyFive generations of the Burwell family lived at Fairfield, designing the landscape and controlling the environment for their own benefit. Their story includes the lives of many enslaved Africans and African-Americans who were forced to labor for the Burwells’ financial success, but experienced a very different and fascinating life of their own.

Documentation of the site began in August 2017 with a drone-based photogrammetry survey, which stitches together hundreds of photographs to generate a highly accurate and detailed digital model of the site.

In an unprecedented step, the Fairfield Foundation will use 3D printers to create a highly accurate replica of the site based on the digital model. Each soil layer exposed during excavation will be printed individually so that students and visitors can take the model apart and experience the same process of discovery that archaeologists do. The manor house, largely destroyed in the 1897 fire, will also be digitally recreated and included as components of the printed model.

You and other volunteers will both learn 3D technologies and continue excavations. Your work will be represented in the model! This will help archaeologists share the thrill of discovery, while also creating a detailed digital record of the site.

The Fairfield Foundation relies heavily on volunteers to help with excavation, cataloging, modeling and preservation of archaeological finds and architectural fabric as these are uncovered.

How You Will Help the Community

Archaeology at Fairfield - fieldwork experience and volunteer opportunityVolunteers like you are helping uncover fascinating glimpses into a world seldom recorded in historical documents.

Excavations are revealing the long-lost layout and design of the manor house and clues to life that went on around it. Each bit of work done furthers research into the site’s complex history, helping future visitors better understand the plantation era.

The philanthropists funding the 3D modeling project stated that, “it is a new way to bring exciting and engaging educational opportunities to the community.”

Lodging and Meals

Out-of-town jammers will stay at the Hampton Inn in Gloucester, and eat breakfast at the hotel. Lunches will be provided from one of the many local fine dining establishments, either on-site or in town as a mid-day break. Dinners are at your own expense, but on several nights, we will pick a great restaurant and go as a group.


A special Resident Rate of USD250 is available for Fairfield Foundation members and residents of Gloucester County. The standard fee for a week is USD940 for lodging in a double room, or USD1090 for a single room.

The Student Rate, for current students not requiring lodging, is USD250. Scholarships are available to cover student lodging on a first-come, first-serve basis. The scholarship is provided through hosting by community members. For students who need lodging and do not get a scholarship, your fee is USD680.

To qualify for a scholarship, please email AiP a short essay explaining what you hope to gain from the week. Following your week at the plantation, you must provide a description of your week to be posted on social media, sharing your experience.


Jamestown settlement site visited as part of archaeology at Fairfield project AiP excursions broaden your volunteer experience, adding to the adventure and giving you a greater understanding and appreciation for the region’s history. We will take a walking tour of the Gloucester Courthouse Circle and the Downtown Historic District and visit the ongoing adaptive re-use project at the 1930 Edge Hill Service Station, now the Fairfield Foundation’s Center for Archaeology, Preservation and Education (CAPE).

Day trips change each session, but may include a trip to the brickyard at Colonial Williamsburg; the magnificent Rosewell ruins, where Thomas Jefferson was a frequent visitor; Bacon’s Castle, the oldest brick dwelling in the US; or historic Jamestown.

I spent an amazing week with wonderful people and I would recommend everybody to live this unique experience. – Annabel 2017 

 Travel Details

If you are arriving by air, the closest airport is Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (30 minute drive). Often less expensive, yet relatively close alternatives include Norfolk International and Richmond International (both are 90 minute drives). Rental cars are available at each destination.

Pick up from the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport can be arranged, if you prefer not to rent a car.

If you would like assistance with travel arrangements, contact Peace Frogs Travel/Outfitters, AiP’s partnering travel agency.

Read about  previous years’ adventures with this volunteer archaeology project at Fairfield Plantation and make plans to join us this year.

Dig in – Register today!

Join this Adventure!

If you have any questions or would like to chat with an AiP staff member about joining this volunteer vacation, contact us at trips@adventuresinpreservation.org or call +1 303-444-0128.