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 Colleege 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.

Thane Harpole
Thane is co-Director of The Fairfield Foundation and owner of DATA Investigations LLC, a cultural resource management company with over thirty years combined experience in archaeology.

Jason Whitehead
Jason is Supervisor, Historic Masonry Trades at Colonial Williamsburg Foundation where he works primarily at the Colonial Williamsburg Brickyard. 

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

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$890 per week | SGL $1095 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
  • 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 at Fairfield Plantation

Return to Upcoming Adventures

Join this Adventure!
Our most popular adventure – be sure to sign up early!

Dates: June 5-11, 2016; August 14-20, 2016

Learn both archaeology and historic brick conservation skills from expert instructors as you help The Fairfield Foundation with their archaeological fieldwork

Why Volunteer at Fairfield

Experience the thrill of re-discovering history at Fairfield Plantation. Fairfield was home to one of Virginia’s magnificent manor houses, an architectural enigma once surrounded by 7,000 acres of tobacco fields and forestland at the heart of Gloucester County, just north of Williamsburg.

This project is a rare opportunity to try your hand at both archaeology and historic preservation. AiP volunteers, known as jammers, will have a full week of activities, including instruction in excavation techniques, making a “hot mix” mortar from burned shell, and bricklaying techniques.

David and Thane did an outstanding job of teaching us and letting us DO! They did a great job of making us feel important and not like lame newb1es. — Calley, 2015

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.

Today, Fairfield Plantation exists as a large, flat agricultural field fringed by forest. Two small groves of trees mark the remains of a cemetery and the ruins of the 1694 manor house, dismantled after a disastrous fire in 1897. All that remains of the house is its substantial brick foundation and rubble-filled cellar.

Our goal is to uncover and document information that helps visitors understand the significance of this manor house and how it related to the landscape and affected the lives of the owners and the enslaved workers who toiled at Fairfield for over two hundred years.

The Fairfield Foundation relies heavily on volunteers to help with excavation, cataloging, documentation and preservation of the architectural fabric as it is 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 while creating the challenge of preserving what remains of this historic structure for the future. Each bit of work done furthers research into the site’s complex history, helping future visitors better understand the plantation era

As a bonus, you will learn from experts in both archaeology and historic preservation, and, best of all, you get to hang out with Dave and Thane, the great guys who founded and run The Fairfield Foundation.

All volunteers are welcome; no experience required. However, if you have experience working at archaeological sites, please let us know.

Lodging and Meals

Jammers from out-of-town will stay at the Hampton Inn in Gloucester. Breakfast is served at the Hampton Inn. Lunches will be provided from one of the many local fine dining establishments, either on-site or as a “break from the heat” mid-day excursion. Dinners are at your own expense, but we often go as a group.

If you would prefer to upgrade to one of several historic B&B’s in the area, contact us. Cost of upgrade to a B&B is dependent on availability; a list is provided upon request.


A special Resident Rate of US$250 is available for Fairfield Foundation members and residents of Gloucester County. The Student Rate, for current students not requiring lodging, is US$250. 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 US$560.  


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). A trip to the brickyard at Colonial Williamsburg is an integral part of this adventure, and will be followed by a tour of Werowocomoco. This site is closed to the general public, giving you a rare chance to see where Pocahontas saved John Smith. Additional excursions may include the magnificent Rosewell ruins, where Thomas Jefferson was a frequent visitor, the  Bacon’s Castle, or historic Jamestown.

While my primary interest is preservation and not archaeology, I was given opportunities to work on tasks more closely related to preservation. This was as simple as being able to map fallen wall sections, but it helped to allow me to see the connections between archaeology and preservation. — Victoria, 2015

Add to the Adventure

With our project just up the road from Williamsburg and historic Jamestown, why not take time before or after to immerse yourself even more deeply in the Colonial era? There are plenty of sites to see in the region. Take Saturday morning to explore more of Colonial Williamsburg or some of the many, other historic sites in the region.

Travel Details

If you are arriving by air, the closest airport is Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (30 minute drive). Less expensive, yet relatively close alternatives include Norfolk International and Richmond International (both are 90 minute drives). Rental cars are available at each destination. If you prefer not to rent a car, pick up from the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport can be arranged.

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

Read about  previous adventures in preservation 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.