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January 30, 2014

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation reports 2013 results: Revenues and fundraising improve

In a report issued today, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation described 2013 as a year in which donor support significantly outpaced the previous year, and all principal business areas registered revenue increases.

“We’re pleased to see things heading in the right direction in the face of continuing challenges,” said Colin Campbell, Colonial Williamsburg’s president and CEO. “We are particularly gratified to see philanthropic support continue to grow substantially year over year. Total ticket revenue was two percent higher than 2012, due to increased sales of core tickets, led by the annual pass. This trend is particularly significant because the annual pass generates return visits and ancillary revenue for Colonial Williamsburg and the broader community.”

Gift commitments in 2013 totaled $75.2 million -- an 18 percent increase over 2012 -- and included commitments to the endowment of $52 million. More than 113,000 donors representing all 50 states contributed, with 16 percent hailing from Virginia. Nearly 20,000 new annual fund donors chose to support Colonial Williamsburg in 2013, a nine percent increase over the previous year. Gifts to the Colonial Williamsburg Fund, which supports operations, totaled a record $15 million.

“We are both humbled and inspired by this strong demonstration of support for the mission of Colonial Williamsburg,” said Campbell. “Friends and supporters from across the country are reinforcing the Foundation’s position as a center for history and citizenship.” Major elements of the Colonial Williamsburg experience that benefited from philanthropic support in 2013 included educational outreach through which Colonial Williamsburg offers interactive distance learning and Web programming to schools and individuals, the Teacher Institute, Historic Trades, the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, and music and arts programming.

Colonial Williamsburg’s endowment ended 2013 with a value of $780 million, a $45 million increase over the previous year and produced a total investment return of 16.3 percent.

More than 800,000 guests passed through Colonial Williamsburg’s Regional Visitor Center in 2013, with an admissions turnstile estimate in excess of 1.8 million people. The turnstile number is based on the variety of ticket products sold; single-day, multi-day and annual pass holders’ return visit frequency and sales of special experience tickets such as carriage rides, lectures and evening programs are used to estimate the number of people experiencing Revolutionary City programs.

Tickets sold in 2013 were approximately 651,000, or less than 0.5 percent below the previous year. Ticket revenue increased by approximately $370,000, or two percent, reflecting higher year-over-year sales of core tickets, including single-day, multi-day and annual passes. Sales of tickets to groups and partnership tickets declined modestly on a year-over-year basis.

More than 208,000 people visited the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg in 2013, an increase of 4.5 percent, due in large measure to the appeal of two major exhibitions. “Painters and Paintings in the Early American South,” which opened in March, is the first exhibition of its kind that explores the scope of this region of early American art, bringing new vitality and scholarship to the forefront. In May, “Threads of Feeling,” a traveling exhibition organized by the Foundling Museum of London, opened for its only showing in the United States. The poignant exhibition consists of 59 books of textile tokens on loan from Coram, a British children’s charity. For more than 4,000 babies left at London’s Foundling Hospital between 1741 and 1760, these textiles were the only identifying record of the infants.

More than 112,000 guests purchased evening program tickets, and for 28 percent of these guests, evening programs were their sole purchase of a Colonial Williamsburg experience. As part of the eighth season of Revolutionary City programming, a new edition of the popular RevQuest: Save the Revolution game was introduced. “RevQuest: the Black Chambers” is the third in the series of the interactive spy game. More than 43,000 guests of all ages participated in 2013, an increase of 16 percent over 2012.

Colonial Williamsburg successfully transitioned the hallmark Revolutionary City programs from a two-day presentation to a cohesive single-day experience that makes Williamsburg’s place in the story of the American Revolution easier for guests to understand and appreciate.

Reconstruction of the James Anderson Blacksmith Shop and Public Armoury was completed in November. The complex presents a vibrant hub of activities showcasing the complexity and urgency of mounting the American war effort against Great Britain, the world’s most powerful 18th-century nation. Made possible by a $5 million gift from Colonial Williamsburg trustee Forrest E. Mars Jr., the Revolutionary City’s newest exhibition site encompasses a blacksmith shop, tin shop, kitchen and storage buildings constructed by Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Trades and 21st-century carpenters, joiners, brickmakers, brickmasons and blacksmiths.

Hospitality and retail businesses registered revenue gains in 2013 over the prior year due to engaging new programs inside and outside the Historic Area and the success of new stores, including the new William Pitt children’s store on Duke of Gloucester Street. Such revenue gains are critical to the success and future of the Foundation, as they provide funding for the preservation and programming at the core of Colonial Williamsburg’s mission. The Golden Horseshoe Gold Course celebrated its 50th anniversary with a visit from golf course architect Rees Jones, son of Robert Trent Jones Sr., who was the original architect of the course that opened in 1963. Colonial Williamsburg launched “The Taste Tradition,” a festival of culinary arts and spirits over Labor Day weekend, bringing guests from the region and beyond to participate with the Foundation’s talented chefs in a broad range of dining and entertaining experiences.

In its 24th year, Colonial Williamsburg’s Teacher Institute and Teacher Development conferences served 1,277 teachers from 34 states in conferences and workshops on- and off-site. Altogether, Teacher Development programs have touched more than 18,000 teachers since inception. In 2014, this dynamic program will add two-day professional development and distance learning opportunities for teachers. The Electronic Field Trip series continued to engage students with stories such as “Civil War Ironclads,” produced in partnership with the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Va., and the National Civil War Naval Museum in Port Columbus, Ga., and “The American Revolution on the Frontier” produced in partnership with the Missouri History Museums in St. Louis.

In March, Colonial Williamsburg published “The Idea of America: How Values Shaped Our Republic and Hold the Key to Our Future.” Written by William E. White of Colonial Williamsburg, H. Michael Hartoonian of Hamline University and Richard D. Van Scotter of Colorado Springs, the book argues that American history has been shaped by a great debate that began with the founders and continues today. The book is central to Colonial Williamsburg’s broader “Idea of America” initiative, which includes educational programs and products that allow students to explore the value tensions underlying American beliefs. In its role as a center for history and citizenship, Colonial Williamsburg examines these tensions and continues the debate every day.

Colonial Williamsburg continued to develop a strong, engaged social community in 2013. Promotions around events and new offerings contributed to a 51 percent growth in Colonial Williamsburg’s social audience. Facebook fans submitted photos featured in a Colonial Williamsburg calendar, and Instagram followers helped post more than 10,000 photos of the Revolutionary City, resulting in millions of interactions from the Foundation’s loyal online advocates. In addition, social transactional sites such as Groupon and Living Social continue to be effective in attracting new audiences.

Guests visiting from May through December witnessed the reproduction of the “First Oval Office” – Gen. George Washington’s large marquee tent. Historic Trades tailors stitched hundreds of yards of linen fabric to fashion a replica of the commander-in-chief’s home during the last four years of the American Revolution. The reproduction was produced in partnership between Colonial Williamsburg and the Museum of the American Revolution.

Colonial Williamsburg’s collaboration with Preservation Virginia at Historic Jamestowne continued to forge closer links between the two sites, support world-class archaeology at Jamestowne and provide opportunities for new, integrated programs. The story of “Jane,” a 14-year-old girl who died during the “Starving Time” of the winter of 1609-10, drew guests to Historic Jamestowne throughout the year following the announcement in May of this evidence of survival cannibalism. The national announcement, held in Washington, D.C., in collaboration with forensic anthropologists at the Smithsonian, coincided with the opening of a new exhibition about “Jane” in the Archaearium at Historic Jamestowne.

Partnerships with the Virginia Arts Festival, the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, the Williamsburg Symphonia and An Occasion for the Arts presented arts opportunities for guests and local residents. For the second year, the Virginia Symphony performed on Palace Green on the Fourth of July, with JoAnn Falleta conducting. The Sorenson Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia brought emerging Virginia political leaders to the Revolutionary City in August, using leadership lessons from revolutionary Virginia and value tensions from “The Idea of America” framework to establish connections between the 18th and 21st centuries.

Colonial Williamsburg’s 2013 Speaker Series brought four celebrated authors to Williamsburg and furthered the Foundation’s role as a center for history and citizenship. P. Allen Smith, author and host of programs on public television, spoke about incorporating plants inside and outside the home to enhance design. Pulitzer-prize-winning author Jon Meacham spoke on his latest book, “Thomas Jefferson: the Art of Power,” and focused particularly on Williamsburg’s influence on the third president. Greek-American author and syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington presented thoughts on the role of the media and was the keynote speaker at the annual Flag Day naturalization ceremony at the Capitol. New York Times columnist and author David Brooks discussed the current state of citizenship and civility in America and his premise that the more people respect and support one another, the more our country will thrive.

“Turning Worlds Upside Down: Liberty and Democracy in Revolutionary Times,” a conference jointly sponsored by Colonial Williamsburg and the Chautauqua Institution, will be held February 21-22. The conference will bring historians and scholars together to examine how the desire for justice and human rights throughout history has motivated people to seek political change that promises a better future.

A landmark long-term exhibition, “A Rich and Varied Culture: the Material World of the Early South,” featuring many objects on loan from other major institutions and private collectors, opens in mid-February during the 66th rendition of the Colonial Williamsburg Antiques Forum.

Programming in the Historic Area incorporating Colonial Williamsburg’s retail shops and historic taverns will enhance the range of activities for guests to enjoy, providing an engaging, immersive experience in which guests can become inhabitants of the city during a momentous revolutionary time. “RevQuest: The Old Enemy,” the fourth in the series of interactive spy games, begins in mid-March and will continue until the end of November, making 2014 the first year during which the popular interactive experience will be offered throughout most of the year.

Construction on the new Market House, funded by a $1 million gift from Forrest Mars Jr., will begin in 2014. When completed in 2015, the reconstructed 18th-century market house will restore one of the central features of Market Square, bringing greater vitality and authenticity to Colonial Williamsburg’s interpretation of economic and social life in colonial America.

Media Contact:
Barbara Brown