A Different Place with a Timeless Story
President Colin Campbell next to Charlton’s Coffeehouse, opened in 2009, with the Capitol, marking 75 years, behind.
President Colin Campbell addressed guests at the opening ceremony for the reconstructed R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse.
A Revolutionary Story, “So Far from Scioto,” part of the foundation’s Revolutionary City program, debuted in 2009.
A copy of the Declaration of Independence, printed by John Binns in 1819, appeared in a Wallace Museum exhibit.
The digital curriculum The Idea of America, which will enter schools in 2010, launched during the year.
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation emerged from the challenges of 2009 a stronger institution. We adapted to the realities of a volatile economy while pursuing advances in programs, outreach, and guest service. We became a different place and organization while remaining faithful to high standards and to the timeless story of the lessons of Revolutionary War–era Williamsburg. The foundation is positioned for success into the future.
The reconstructed Governor’s Palace and the Capitol, as well as the Costume Design Center, which outfits Historic Area interpreters, marked their seventy-fifth years in 2009, and African American programming celebrated its thirtieth. Those anniversaries, commemorated with special tours and events, encouraged us to reflect, as anniversaries do, on how the institution has evolved to meet changing times and tastes.
Considering the challenging external circumstances of 2009, it was a relatively positive year for Colonial Williamsburg, one in which ticket sales declined from 2008 levels but kept pace with many historic sites nationally and were substantially stronger than some. A comprehensive internal response to external business conditions dramatically reduced our expense base.
That response included the elimination of more than 400 full-time-equivalent positions since the beginning of the recession, of which fewer than 200 positions were occupied—furlough days for salaried staff—salary reductions for officers, and less work for hourly employees. Under the circumstances, the commitment on the part of employees across the organization in an extraordinarily difficult and uncertain environment is nothing short of remarkable. Our achievements in 2009 can be credited in large measure to colleagues’ understanding, sacrifices, and One Foundation ethic.
Combined with the support and encouragement of more than 108,000 loyal donors, 2009 was a more successful year than anticipated. Colonial Williamsburg evolved into a different place, operationally and to some degree programmatically, all while reinforcing our mission that the future may learn from the past.
At the East end of the Historic Area we opened R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse, the first major reconstruction on Duke of Gloucester Street in fifty years. Curators and researchers, working from a wealth of archaeological, architectural, and written evidence, re-created the site in painstaking detail.
A lively interpretive program in this new setting has proved singularly popular with guests, as has the building itself. Funded by a marvelous gift from Forrest E. Mars Jr. and Deborah Mars, Charlton’s not only brought a new dimension to the Historic Area, but it also provided a rare opportunity for our talented trades and operations staffs to collaborate on an exciting reconstruction in full view of our guests.
Years of planning and preparation resulted in the premier presentation of “So Far from Scioto,” a signal accomplishment of the foundation’s American Indian Initiative. For several weeks in October, three highly professional Native American actors portrayed young Shawnee chiefs brought to Williamsburg in 1774 as peace emissaries in connection with a treaty ending Lord Dunmore’s war in the Ohio country. The chiefs see the turmoil of the city on the eve of the Revolution, and torn by homesickness, political uncertainty, and honor, they consider their course of action. The well-received program returns in the spring and autumn of 2010.
An audio program, narrated by Patrick Henry, explains to Presbyterian Meeting House visitors the drive for religious diversity on the eve of the Revolution. We enriched The Revolutionary City program with the addition of “All Cause of Danger,” which presents Williamsburg’s reaction to the Boston Port closing in 1774, and “Blessings of Liberty,” which explores the tensions between Whigs and Tories in the Virginia colony. At Great Hopes Plantation, the foundation provided guests a special weekend of programs that showed how eighteenth-century African Americans bonded socially in the face of oppression and inequality.
At the consolidated Colonial Williamsburg Art Museums, the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum presented exhibitions of early printings of the Declaration of Independence, a rich collection of early American stoneware, a wide variety of outdoor folk art, and the nineteenth-century wooden sculptures of Asa Ames. To share our extraordinary collections more broadly, we introduced eMuseum, an online exhibition of an initial 2,000 of the foundation’s collection of 60,000 antiques and works of art, a project that will see nearly 5,000 objects online by the end of 2010. In addition to the new and special exhibitions, the museums continued to offer family and children’s tours and activities, as well as unparalleled exhibits of fine furniture, silver, china, coins and currency, paintings, and firearms.
We launched a groundbreaking interactive, fully digital, Web-based high school curriculum, The Idea of America, which teaches history and citizenship using sixty-five case studies of pivotal events in the evolution of the nation. Contrasting American values—unity and diversity, private wealth and common wealth, law and ethics, freedom and equality—serve as a framework to guide case study discussion, with each case study linking to a current event Web site. The product of five years of development supported by $5 million in gifts and a distribution partnership with Pearson, the world’s leading education publishing and technology company, The Idea of America will be available in high school classrooms in autumn 2010. Students will have an opportunity to discuss what they have learned and to debate issues with their peers across the country through participation in The Virtual Republic, an interactive program developed by our staff with support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Six million schoolchildren in grades 4–8 participated in our series of seven electronic field trips, tuning in and logging on from 2,100 schools in fifty states—a 9 percent increase from 2008—as well as Canada, Greece, and Hong Kong. Visits to Colonial Williamsburg’s Web sites rose 12 percent to 24.3 million, and 541,000 individuals engaged in citizenship discussions on our primary blogging Web site, iCitizenForum, which won a Best Online Community award from the Web Marketing Association. The association cited the blog site for design, content, innovation, technology, interactivity, copywriting, and ease of use. About 115,000 people downloaded one or more of our fifty-two podcasts and eleven vodcasts.
The Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute provided a summer-long series of immersions in early American history for teachers from across the country. Elementary, middle, and high school teachers returned to their schools with a new understanding of how we became Americans, new methods of engaging students in learning, and a renewed enthusiasm for teaching. The emphasis of the institute is on the use of primary source materials—artifacts, documents, records, works of art, costumes, and more—to engage and inspire students in the classroom.
Colonial Williamsburg also sponsors Teaching American History conferences around the country, one- and two-day workshops that bring Colonial Williamsburg teaching techniques and strategies to thousands of teachers in their school districts each year. In 2009, there were Teaching American History conferences in Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin, reaching more than 1,550 teachers in total.
In the summer, Colonial Williamsburg and the Chautauqua Institution joined to present a week of programming in Chautauqua, New York, on “The History of Liberty.” Several of the foundation’s Nation Builder interpreters participated with historian Gordon Wood, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, and NewsHour founder and anchor Jim Lehrer, all current or senior foundation trustees, in examining a subject which is at the heart of Colonial Williamsburg’s mission. The experience was such a success that, in 2011, Chautauqua and Colonial Williamsburg, this time joined by the National Museum of African American History of the Smithsonian Institution, will partner on a series of programs addressing “The Path to the Civil War,” an examination of events from the importation of Africans in 1619 to the eve of conflict in 1860. Programs will occur in Williamsburg on Presidents Weekend, February 2011, and later in the year in Washington, D.C., and Chautauqua. This will be a major commitment by the foundation to marking the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.
Distinguished publications have been a centerpiece of Colonial Williamsburg’s educational outreach for decades, and 2009 was no exception. Highlights included Salt-glazed Stoneware in Early America, by curators Janine E. Skerry and Suzanne Findlen Hood, to accompany the stoneware exhibition at the DeWitt Wallace Museum, and a contemporary version of an eighteenth-century textbook, M. DeGarsault’s 1767 Art of the Shoemaker: An Annotated Translation, by Master Boot and Shoemaker D. A. Saguto.
Turning to operating results, the economic pressures facing the nation last year were reflected in a 7 percent decline in paid general admissions to 660,000. This translates to a visitor “gate count” of about 1.7 million, taking into account a significant increase in the sale of multiday tickets from 2008. Analysis and guest surveys show that the longer the visit, the more satisfying the experience, the more likely the guest is to return, and the more likely is a positive recommendation to others.
Museum visitation was 208,000, off about 4 percent. Evening programs and carriage ride tickets totaled 244,000, compared with 301,000 in 2008, and Historic Area bus ridership was just over 1.7 million compared with 2.1 million a year earlier.
Financial pressures on schools and parents meant slightly fewer school groups visited Colonial Williamsburg, although specially designed programs for homeschoolers and scouting groups attracted other young people. Economic conditions resulted in fewer travelers with less discretionary income, which meant a decrease in walk-up or leisure visitors.
After an extensive seventy-year run, and after considerable review of options, we announced plans to discontinue the printed products catalog. Evolving consumer buying habits and the high cost of producing and mailing the catalog led to acknowledgment of this new economic reality. Fortunately, those who are attuned to shopping online will be able to find selected items on williamsburgmarketplace.com, and we introduced the WILLIAMSBURG: Home for All Seasons collection with a QVC broadcast on national television.
Amidst challenging conditions, in these numbers is reason for optimism. Although the foundation had an operating loss, it was a $15 million improvement over 2008, in large measure because of continuing expense reduction efforts that saved approximately $33 million. Throughout that process we sought to protect education-related activities by focusing more on corporate support functions and business operations. Going forward, we intend to maintain the discipline that permitted this improved operating performance in 2009. As the economy strengthens and as the inclination to travel returns, our revenue performance will improve as well, and operating results will benefit from a lower expense base.
Millions of Americans heard from Tom Hanks why Colonial Williamsburg is an experience and a destination that everyone should have. The award-winning producer and actor starred in a thirty-second public service announcement that encapsulates the American experience using Historic Area scenes.
During the year the foundation, through a refocused marketing communications program, created an emotionally appealing marketing campaign, launched as 2010 began, titled “Be Part of the Story.” Using television, radio, newspaper, Internet, and social media, the campaign conveys the breadth and depth of the Colonial Williamsburg experience, inviting family, leisure, and conference visitors to engage in the story of the founding of the nation while also enjoying memorable hospitality and recreational opportunities.
For the fifteenth year, The Condé Nast Traveler Gold List recognized the Williamsburg Inn as one of the World’s Best Places to Stay, and the Inn’s Regency Dining Room achieved a Mobil Four-Star award from Exxon Mobil. Golf Digest again included the Golden Horseshoe Gold Course on its biannual list of America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses. The Spa of Colonial Williamsburg received high accolades from a range of industry publications. Meetings & Conventions magazine gave our resort properties its Gold Hall of Fame Award, the Williamsburg Lodge restaurant was recognized locally for Best Brunch in Town, and the American Planning Association christened Duke of Gloucester one of the 10 Great Streets in the nation. This variety of recognition is testimony to the total experience of Colonial Williamsburg and the destination.
To reinforce our significance as a cultural as well as a historic site, the foundation expanded its partnership with the Virginia Arts Festival and, over Memorial Day weekend, hosted sold-out performances in the Williamsburg Lodge featuring Broadway star Patti LuPone, the popular Latino musical group Tiempo Libre, and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. More of these types of performances are planned for the future to enrich the experience of our guests and to attract new audiences to Williamsburg.
In support of the foundation’s leadership role in the area’s economy and tourism sector, we joined other area leaders from surrounding jurisdictions and major educational and business organizations to establish the Historic Triangle Collaborative. This group, a successor to the Jamestown 2007 Host Committee, is focused on enhancing regional cooperation, tourism, economic diversification, and integrated regional planning.
Much of what makes a Colonial Williamsburg visit, especially a longer visit, most satisfying is exposure to the full range of Historic Area programs and exhibits. Donor contributions and the endowment underwrite many of these. Beyond providing important operating support, gifts built the coffeehouse and funded development of The Idea of America, for example, and they made it possible for us to acquire decorative arts objects, offer seminars, endow staff positions, and support preservation activities. Challenge grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities—one a “We The People” grant for an African American programming endowment and another for the Virtual Williamsburg 3-D Web site—are third-party affirmation of our scholarly efforts.
About 108,000 households, embracing the fifty states, contributed slightly less than $14 million to the Colonial Williamsburg Fund, which was a 4.5 percent decline from the previous year, but very respectable given the recessionary environment. Among these supporters were 18,000 making first-time gifts. Especially significant as well were contributions from 2,800 Williamsburg-area families.
The market value of Colonial Williamsburg’s endowment was $702 million as of December 31, 2009, an increase of $91 million since December 31, 2008, attributable to a sharp rally in financial markets in the last nine months of the year and continued outstanding performance by Investure, the Charlottesville firm which serves as the investment office for the foundation’s endowment and pension plans. As of June 30, 2009, the typical fiscal year-end for colleges, universities, and other endowed institutions, Colonial Williamsburg’s endowment performance ranked in the top 3 percent of more than 400 endowed institutions.
Colonial Williamsburg is enormously fortunate to have a board of trustees that gives generously of its time and experience to help guide the foundation through times of challenge and opportunity. In 2009, we welcomed to the board Steven L. Miller of Houston, Texas, chairman and president of SLM Discovery Ventures, Inc., a company pursuing commercial ventures in support of volunteerism, social outreach, and higher education academic achievement. A long-time visitor to and supporter of Colonial Williamsburg, he is former chairman of the board of directors, president, and chief executive officer of Shell Oil Company.
Active in the business and nonprofit communities, Steve is immediate past chairman of the University of Illinois Foundation, a senior member of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors, board member of the Greater Houston Community Foundation and the Greater Houston Partnership, former member of the Business Roundtable, and past chairman of the Points of Light Foundation.
Amos B. Hostetter Jr. of Cambridge, Massachusetts, retired as a trustee after six years of board service. Chairman of Pilot House Associates and a trustee of the Barr Foundation in Boston, he was a founder and long-term CEO of Continental Cablevision, Inc. (later MediaOne), which was sold to AT&T in the mid-1990s. A trustee of many nonprofit organizations, he served on the Colonial Williamsburg board’s executive committee and educational programs and policies committee and chaired the nominating and governance committee.
At year’s end, the board extended my appointment as president and chief executive officer. I am humbled by the board’s confidence and look forward to continuing the work we began together when I assumed this responsibility ten years ago. The assignment presents challenge and inspiration each day. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with a committed board and a talented and dedicated staff. I am grateful, as well, for the opportunity to work and communicate with many of you, steadfast supporters of the mission of Colonial Williamsburg and the experience offered here. This is a fascinating and vital place, a place central to our nation’s history.
A different place in 2009, but one that continues to tell a timeless story.
Colin G. Campbell
President and Chief Executive Officer