Stewards of the Future
President Colin Campbell with Historic Area colleagues at the Capitol.
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A Belief in Our Mission
Once a month, a cross-section of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation staff and I meet for breakfast, a fresh group every time. It gives us the chance to communicate in a small setting, which I believe is mutually beneficial. The turnout is consistently good, the questions and comments wide-ranging. I am always impressed and gratified by the strong interest in the foundation's well-being at these gatherings. That interest in how Colonial Williamsburg is faring is an extension of what I believe has been critical to our success in the past several years. Despite the stresses of the recession, the reductions in our workforce, and increased burdens on everyone, my colleagues across the foundation stood shoulder-to-shoulder and excelled. A deep current of commitment and enthusiasm runs through this institution, a belief in our mission, a recognition that all of us are, in one sense or another, stewards of the future.
What We Are All About
Years ago, the late Winthrop Rockefeller, chairman of the foundation's board of trustees and son of our founder, John D. Rockefeller Jr., said his father believed Colonial Williamsburg's mission "was to express to the modern world the value of lessons of individual responsibility, devotion, and love of freedom." His father put it more succinctly: "That the future may learn from the past." These days we also employ such phrases as Education for Citizenship, The Idea of America, and Becoming Americans. No matter how we express it, teaching an appreciation of the history that happened here, passing to new generations the knowledge of our struggles to be free and equal, preserving for tomorrow the lessons of yesterday, is what Colonial Williamsburg is all about.
Net Assets, Attendance Rose
To be good stewards of the future, we must be careful stewards of the present. As a result of energetic and creative efforts, we saw admissions, hospitality, products, fund-raising, commercial real estate, and endowment revenue all improve in 2010. We also carefully controlled expenses. The result was good news in a difficult time.
The challenges of the American economy, including in particular unemployment, directly affect Colonial Williamsburg's admissions and hotel occupancy. With unemployment remaining high, we felt an impact. Yet, through creative programming and marketing, about 1.7 million people walked our streets—roughly the same as in 2009, our paid attendance increased by nearly 4 percent to 686,000, and our hotel occupancy, including conference business, picked up nicely.
The value of the endowment increased by $52 million to $754 million, and realized a total return of 16 percent. The endowment's investment performance in the year ending December 31, 2010, continues to place us in the top ranks of endowments across the country. I am especially pleased that the net assets of the foundation have increased significantly during the past two years after experiencing a downturn with the rest of the economy in 2008.
Because we continue operating with a substantially smaller staff and are keeping expenses down—and we intend to maintain that discipline—we will be in a well-leveraged position as the tourism economy improves. This is critical to achieving true financial equilibrium—an essential responsibility of stewards of the future.
A Place for Engagement
Among our newest programming initiatives in the Historic Area is Charlton's Coffeehouse, which opened in November 2009 and welcomed more than 100,000 guests in 2010. With tours limited to fewer than twenty guests at a time, that is a lot of traffic in this relatively small but important space.
The generosity of Forrest E. Mars Jr. and Deborah Mars made possible this first reconstruction on the Duke of Gloucester Street in more than fifty years. In 2010, Mr. Mars committed the funding for reconstruction of the Public Armoury at the most popular trade site in the Historic Area, the James Anderson Blacksmith Shop. This large complex will introduce our guests to the industrial life of Williamsburg during the Revolutionary War. It will be a busy place, with forges producing vital material, a working tinsmith shop making supplies, and cannon repair and the like in the yard. Though not far from Raleigh Tavern, or the Capitol, or the Governor's Palace, the Armoury was a true eighteenth-century industrial site, and its reconstruction offers guests exposure to significantly different dimensions of life in Williamsburg in wartime. Presentations there will connect with the message of Revolutionary City and give a fuller picture of the challenges the Revolution presented, as well as the interaction between citizens and the military.
This past year began with placing Capitol and Palace guests in "moments in history" by re-creating events that generated lively activity at those sites in the eighteenth century. At the Palace, interpreters were reenacting a ball the governor gave in January 1775, a politically charged time. The setting's elegance and the excited planning for the festivities are contrasted with political talk and intrigue, tensions between loyalists and patriots, distrust between Lord Dunmore and House of Burgesses members. It is a more engaging, family-friendly experience than a tour, but authentic history is still very much at the forefront, as it always should be.
We inaugurated a Guest Artist program that brought to Williamsburg actors Mamie Gummer of such productions as HBO's John Adams and Broadway's Les liaisons dangereuses and Jesse Williams of TV's Grey's Anatomy to play the roles of historical Williamsburg figures before live outdoor audiences of more than 1,000. These are artists beginning to make names for themselves, and willing to be experimental. Interestingly, Jesse Williams had been a teacher, and he talked about his classroom experience with the audience. His belief in the importance of history education came through clearly to our guests and probably was a reason that he accepted our invitation.
Engagement is key. As we reflect on being stewards of the future, it is critical that we engage that future—young people, families. We can do that without compromising our message of authenticity, always emphasizing the importance of the history that makes Williamsburg such a vital place to the nation.
There is a balancing act in our programming that we always have to keep in mind: how to maintain the interest of well-informed history enthusiasts while at the same time appealing to family visitors. We can, and we must, do both.
The Collections, Conservation, and Museums Division gave more explicit attention in 2010 to the conservator function, so important to preserving our collections and to preparing them for exhibits. It was appropriate and timely to recognize an activity at which Colonial Williamsburg excels but does not often showcase. The DeWitt Wallace conservation labs and the exhibition Conservation: Where Art and Science Meet at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum are fascinating and important examples of the cutting-edge work of our conservators. The restored Carolina Room, the 1830s planter's parlor installed at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, is another. About 210,000 guests moved through museum galleries last year to view such exhibits.
Colonial Williamsburg is fortunate to have close relationships with enterprises having similar missions and values. In 2010, we entered into partnerships with three— the Chautauqua Institution, the Smithsonian's Museum of African American History and Culture, and Preservation Virginia.
Having participated in 2009 with the Chautauqua Institution in a remarkable program, "The History of Liberty," which involved Colonial Williamsburg trustees and interpretive staff at the upstate New York home of the institute, we determined to begin planning for early 2011 a similar program on the causes of the Civil War. In late 2010, with Chautauqua and the Smithsonian, we began work on a conference, "Storm on the Horizon: Slavery, Disunion, and the Roots of the Civil War." A three-part program which will culminate later this year in a week-long series of talks and interpretive programs at Chautauqua, the Colonial Williamsburg portion of it, a weekend conference this past February, was a great success, a reminder that serious discussion of the critical events in American history, and the relationship of the Revolutionary period to those later events, have current relevance.
Because of a partnership signed in 2010, the sweep of history from 1607 to 1781, essentially, is now told in two locations managed by Colonial Williamsburg—our Historic Area and Preservation Virginia's site at Historic Jamestowne. This donor-funded initiative offers an opportunity to add limited Jamestown programming, make the two-site experience more seamless, link our archaeological programs and other activities, and work more closely with Preservation Virginia and the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation to strengthen the Historic Triangle as a destination. To underline the region's historical and cultural resources, Colonial Williamsburg is collaborating with other institutions to seek designation of the Historic Triangle's original sites—Colonial Williamsburg's Historic Area, the old campus of the College of William and Mary, Historic Jamestowne, and the Yorktown Battlefield—as a World Heritage Site.
Our significant partnership with the Virginia Arts Festival continued to develop in 2010. Each spring, the festival organization brings to the region a range of Broadway and classical artists, singer-songwriters, acclaimed instrumentalists, dance troupes, theatrical companies, and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. Colonial Williamsburg hosts the festival over the Memorial Day weekend. Such presentations add a lively, broadly appealing cultural dimension to the destination, enhancing the activities and opportunities that distinguish Colonial Williamsburg from others.
More locally, the annual Occasion for the Arts staged in Merchants Square became a two-day event featuring Historic Trades as a significant component. It is a great linkage with the community.
Broad National Support
We are proud of and humbled by another important partnership, one with generous friends across the country who believe our nation's history is important to preserve and share. In 2010, more than 108,000 households gave and pledged more than $31.6 million. Nearly 18,000 friends contributed for the first time.
Colonial Williamsburg Fund gifts, which provide much appreciated annual operating support, totaled nearly $14.3 million, up 2 percent. To generate the same amount would require nearly $300 million in endowment.
There were more than 800 gifts for specific projects. Among them were trustee Forrest E. Mars Jr.'s gifts for the Armoury; the creation of two planned preservation endowments by trustee Henry C. Wolf and his wife, Dixie, increasing their support by $1 million, with one endowment in memory of Rebecca R. Davidson, Mrs. Wolf's mother; and a $500,000 commitment from Margaret Nelson Fowler and Roy E. Hock for Historic Jamestowne preservation and archaeology.
In 2010, the number of donors who included the foundation in their estate plans rose to 1,750. Gifts from individuals accounted for 72 percent of total donor revenue, with corporate, foundation, government and other support comprising the other 28 percent. Donor society membership grew 5 percent. Such generosity is extraordinary, meaningful, and deeply appreciated.
Spreading the Word
A new approach to marketing—an invitation to "Be Part of the Story"—took hold and was critical to our advances in 2010. The quality and creativity of the Historic Area, museum, and educational outreach programs resonated with our audiences, on-site and off.
The importance of social media—Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and the like—grew, and our marketers moved to exploit it. On the World Wide Web, Colonial Williamsburg's virtual visits rose 5 percent to 26.5 million. Electronic field trips reached more than 2,000 registered schools and home-school families, for a total audience of six million, and we completed the development of The Idea of America, a digital, Web-based curriculum for high school students.
Led by William E. White, Royce R. and Kathryn M. Baker Vice President for Productions, Publications, and Learning Ventures, The Idea of America is a striking, new interactive history and civics curriculum compiled of case studies in how individual citizens created and sustain the republic. Based on the belief that history education and civics education are mutually reinforcing and can be taught together in exciting new ways, the initiative drew $5 million in donor support and the participation of classroom teachers from across the nation.
In addition, teachers from thirty states and the District of Columbia—1,640 in total—participated in our on-site and off-site institutes and workshops. These continue to be a major contribution to the teaching of history in schools across the country.
I am proud of such accomplishments, indeed, by all that Colonial Williamsburg achieved in 2010. Challenges remain, but the results show that the creative programming, special exhibits, attractive promotions, and partnerships we pursued, the compelling experiences we provided, made a difference to our guests and supporters.
Our success in engaging and attracting the public demonstrates, I think, the abiding interest and pride Americans have, when given the incentive and opportunity, in the story of our nation. It is a story a part of which we are privileged to tell, and to safeguard, as stewards of the future.
Colin G. Campbell
President and Chief Executive Officer