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For 2026: A Five-Year Conference Series

In 2026 the United States of America will mark the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. This is an unparalleled opportunity for exploring and reflecting upon the American past, the foundation of the nation, and its legacy into the present. Complex, inspiring, and often violent, this period informs our experience as Americans today. The better we understand that past, the better we are equipped to understand ourselves, address the challenges we face, and seize opportunities for the future.

 The Omohundro Institute, William & Mary, and The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation are joining together to host a series of five annual conferences to spotlight emerging research, connect a diverse public to scholars and research and convene significant conversations about how and why understanding the early American past is especially meaningful today. The first of these conferences, For 2026: Revolutionary Legacies, took place October 28–30, 2022. For 2026: Contested Freedoms was the second conference in the series that took place October 26-28, 2023. In 2024, we are proud to announce For 2026: Virginia’s Revolutionary Histories & Beyond, occurring October 24-26, 2024.  

 The Omohundro Institute is the leading hub for inquiry into early American history, broadly understood as all points in the Atlantic World between roughly 1450 and 1820 and supports and publishes the leading research into this expansive Early America. William & Mary is the top-ranked university in the nation for its early American history offerings, and a leader in integrated diversity, equity, and inclusion programming and creating opportunities for civic discourse. Colonial Williamsburg is the world’s largest living history museum, dedicated to its mission that the future may learn from the past through its expert and distinctive events, collections, programs, and site interpretation. Together, our three institutions are committed to serving the public good through historical education, research and outreach to the community, the region, the nation, and beyond. This mission has never been more resonant, or more relevant.

 For 2026 features a four-module structure incorporating both public-facing and scholarly conversations:

  • Panels and workshops throughout each day to allow presenters to share their work and benefit from expert peer feedback. These include history-focused sessions on the American Revolution as well as sessions on other aspects of Vast Early America along with sessions focused on teaching & learning in K-12 and higher education contexts.
  • Public audience events that introduce diverse publics to cutting-edge research. Formats might include expert roundtables with question-and-answer periods; scholarly presentations of familiar and understudied primary sources from the period; landmark lectures or interviews with award-winning scholars, museum professionals and leaders in this arena.
  • Site visits that introduce participants to the Commonwealth’s local and regional resources. In addition to showcasing Virginia’s centrality in the founding of our nation, we leverage these sites to explore questions of evidence and methodology; themes of freedom, democracy and belonging; and strategies for engaging historic sites, collections, exhibitions and resources in academic and public learning and programming.
  • Workshops focused on how museums and other public history sites can incorporate new research, featuring both scholars who presented research at the conference and public history experts and practitioners.