July 9, 2013
Colonial Williamsburg President Presents Vision for the Future
In the 2012 annual report issued this week, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation president and chief executive officer Colin Campbell expressed appreciation for philanthropic support while recognizing the challenges of sustaining the Foundation’s mission with operating shortfalls.
“We affirm the original mission of Colonial Williamsburg – that the future may learn from the past,” said Campbell. “But we also recognize that how we get there must continuously evolve.”
Campbell acknowledged that constant reappraisal of methods and techniques of historic interpretation and experimentation with other initiatives assures that the Colonial Williamsburg experience remains meaningful to people’s lives.
“We are more convinced than ever that our strategy of appealing to new audiences, while preserving our traditional support, is the way to move forward,” Campbell writes.
The Annual Report reflects 2012 results released in February, with donor support and the endowment growing, and paid admission decreasing by three percent.
Revenues and Expenses
The Road Ahead
The Revolutionary City
The centerpiece of Colonial Williamsburg’s history and citizenship initiative is a new version of Revolutionary City®, with a full-day experience that produces an even stronger sense of life within a revolutionary-charged 18th-century community. Interpreters have been moved out of doorways, where they have been obliged to check tickets, locating them in the streets to interact more naturally with guests. The shops and taverns are more closely linked to the Revolutionary City experience, creating a lively, functioning community where daily life and commerce are infused with the spirit of revolution. Hotel guests can take behind-the-scenes tours with staff and historians, and tavern entertainment is now more directly linked to Revolutionary City stories. The third episode of “RevQuest: Save the Revolution” debuted this summer with “The Black Chambers,” an engaging game of espionage based upon actual events, with players using technology to find clues, break the code, have fun and learn history.
Adding to the street activity will be the November opening of the completed Anderson Blacksmith Shop and Public Armoury site. The industrial complex was owned and operated by James Anderson, appointed public armourer in 1776 by the General Assembly of the newly independent Commonwealth of Virginia.
The blacksmith shop and armoury will reflect the beehive of activity present during the Revolution, with numerous trades working together in support of the American war effort: blacksmiths forging and repairing hardware, tinsmiths fashioning all sorts of military accoutrements and other trades artisans repairing and rebuilding military arms while historic foodways interpreters re-create the meals the kitchen provided to Anderson’s diverse 40-strong work force. The site provides a vivid setting for the new Revolutionary City experience.
A $5 million gift from Colonial Williamsburg trustee Forrest E. Mars Jr. enabled the reconstruction and endowment of the site, and an additional $1 million commitment will fund the construction of a Market House in the center of the Revolutionary City. Mars is director emeritus of Mars Inc. and former CEO of the company. He is a Life Member of the Raleigh Tavern Society, a group of generous Foundation friends founded more than 30 years ago.
The Williamsburg Forum
A new series of international conferences known as the Williamsburg Forum met for the first time in Williamsburg this spring. The forum is the result of a partnership with the Center for Strategic and International Studies – a preeminent Washington, D.C. think tank – and the Reves Center for International Studies at the College of William and Mary. The Williamsburg-CSIS Forum seeks to engage difficult 21st-century governing issues by using America’s own revolutionary history and struggles as a frame of reference. The first forum brought to Williamsburg a politically diverse group of active participants in the ongoing effort to form a new, sustainable government in post-revolutionary Egypt. With U.S. authorities and specialists on the Middle East participating, the forum explored the dramatic events of the Arab Spring and Egypt’s difficult political path forward. The next forum, to be held in the fall, will focus on federalism and address political and economic challenges confronted by European nations, again in the context of the American experience.
The Art Museums
The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg continue to attract visitors from around the world with exciting new exhibitions. “Painters and Paintings of the Early American South” opened in March, accompanied by a scholarly catalogue that represents the culminating work of Colonial Williamsburg’s Juli Grainger curator Carolyn Weekley. The exhibit examines the complex ways in which the lives of artists, clients and subjects of the paintings connected in the early American South. The book and the exhibition were underwritten by the Grainger Foundation of Lake Forest, Ill. “Changing Keys: Keyboard Instruments for America, 1700 – 1830,” a book and exhibit by the same name, is the work of John R. Watson, conservator of mechanical arts and associate curator of musical instruments. Watson uses Colonial Williamsburg’s collection of keyboard instruments to explore the design, regional and political influences, and the competition among instrument makers and merchants. In May, a traveling exhibition organized by the Foundling Museum of London, “Threads of Feeling,” opened. The display consists of 59 books of textile tokens on loan from Coram, a British children’s charity. Each piece of fabric or token tells a poignant, emotional story from more than 200 years ago.
History and Citizenship
The effort to draw America’s formative years more closely to the present must be intellectually and emotionally appealing. Colonial Williamsburg’s newest publication, “The Idea of America: How Values Shaped Our Republic and Hold the Key to Our Future” is both. Written by Bill White, the Royce R. and Kathryn M. Baker vice president for productions, publications and learning ventures, and two colleagues, the book captures the intellectual underpinnings of our programming in both the Historic Area and through educational outreach.
Colonial Williamsburg inaugurated a new speaker series that draws on American history to frame contemporary governing challenges. In May, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jon Meacham provided insight into the life and ways of Thomas Jefferson. In June, journalist Arianna Huffington, herself a naturalized citizen, spoke on Flag Day during Colonial Williamsburg’s annual naturalization ceremony. In September, New York Times columnist David Brooks will discuss Williamsburg as an arsenal of democracy.
Campbell concludes, “From 18th-century scholarship to current events to revolutionary street authenticity, we have made it our goal to establish Colonial Williamsburg as an intellectually and emotionally vital community – a community that makes its history immediate, meaningful and moving.”