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June 25, 2010

In 2009 Colonial Williamsburg Reports Achievements in Programs, Outreach and Guest Service Against Backdrop of Recession

Colonial Williamsburg achieved advances in programs, outreach and guest service in 2009 while adapting to the challenges of a volatile economy.

“I am pleased to report Colonial Williamsburg emerged from 2009 a stronger organization, more nimble in our response to changing conditions, better positioned to take advantage of an improved economy and energized to reach new and expanding audiences,” said Colin Campbell, president of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. “We are a different place as a result of the year’s experience, but one that continues to tell a timeless story—a story central to our nation’s history.”

The achievements are highlighted in the Foundation’s annual report published in the current issue of its magazine, the Colonial Williamsburg Journal.

In 2009, the Foundation observed several milestone anniversaries. The reconstructed Governor’s Palace and the Capitol, as well as the Costume Design Center, all marked their 75th anniversaries. African American programming, pioneered in a museum/living history setting by Colonial Williamsburg, celebrated its 30th anniversary.

The report notes numerous achievements in interpretations and presentations, museums and exhibitions, and outreach and communications by the Foundation including:

  • Opened R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse, the first major reconstruction on Duke of Gloucester Street in 50 years. Curators and researchers, working from extensive archaeological, architectural and writ¬ten evidence analyzed the site in painstaking detail providing an opportunity for historic trades and contemporary operations staffs to collaborate on an exciting recon¬struction in full view of guests.

  • Premiered “So Far from Scioto,” a flagship program of the Foundation’s American Indian Initiative. Professional Native American actors portrayed young Shawnee chiefs brought to Williamsburg in 1774 as peace emissaries.

  • Presented new exhibitions at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg including early printings of the Declaration of Independence, a rich collection of early American stoneware, a variety of outdoor folk art and 19th-century wooden sculptures of Asa Ames.

  • Launched eMuseum, an online exhibition of an initial 2,000 of the Foundation’s 60,000 antiques and works of art, providing wider access to these extraordinary collections.

  • Produced seven interactive, Emmy-winning electronic field trip programs in which six million students in grades 4–8 participated, tuning in and logging on from 2,100 schools in 50 states—a 9 percent increase over 2008—as well as Canada, Greece and Hong Kong.

  • Increased visits to Colonial Williams¬burg’s websites by 12 percent to 24.3 million, while 541,000 individuals engaged in citizenship discussions on the Foundation’s primary blogging website, which won a Best Online Community award from the Web Marketing Association.

  • Developed a groundbreaking, fully digital, Web-based high school curriculum, The Idea of America, to teach history and citizenship using 65 resource-rich case studies of pivotal events. The product of five years of development supported by $5 million in donor gifts and a distribution partnership with Pearson, the world’s leading education publishing and technology company, the curriculum offers students the op¬portunity to discuss what they have learned and to de¬bate issues with their peers across the country through participation in The Virtual Republic, an interactive program developed by Colonial Williamsburg staff with support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The new curriculum is available for use in classrooms beginning this fall.

  • Created a family-focused marketing campaign, launched as 2010 began, titled Be Part of the Story, using TV, radio, newspaper, online advertising and social media in markets from Connecticut to North Carolina with a message highlighting the breadth and depth of the Colonial Williamsburg experience.

In operating and financial results, 2009 was a relatively positive year for Colonial Williamsburg as the Foundation acted to reduce the impact of recessionary conditions on the institution’s financial performance.

“Amid challenging economic conditions, there is reason for optimism,” said Campbell. “Operating results im¬proved over 2008 by $15 million, in large measure because of continuing expense reduction efforts which saved approximately $33 million. Throughout this pro¬cess we sought to protect education-related activities by focusing more on corporate support functions and busi¬ness operations. Our comprehensive internal response to external business conditions dramatically reduced our expense base and prepared us to take full advantage of an economic recovery.”

The Foundation’s key operating and investment results for 2009 include:

  • Total revenues of $192 million (including budgeted endowment support), a decrease of $18 million from 2008.

  • Expenses were $216 million, a decrease of $33 million from 2008, resulting in an operating loss of $24 million, a $15 million improve¬ment compared with the previous year.

  • As previously reported, general admission ticket sales totaled 660,000, down 7 percent from 2008. The “visitor gate count,” a measure of the actual number of visitors during the year based on type and duration of ticket purchased, was 1.7 million.

  • Gifts to the Colonial Williamsburg Fund, which supports the operating budget, were $14 million, a slight decrease compared with 2008.

  • The number of donors surpassed the 100,000 mark for the eighth consecutive year. Eighteen thousand supporters made first-time gifts, and 2,800 Williamsburg-area families contributed.

  • The endowment increased in value by $90 million to a market value of $702 million, reflecting strong investment performance. (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 peers.)

  • The Foundation’s net assets were $843 million, a $115 million increase, largely as a result of the performance of endowment assets which returned 20 percent.

“Throughout its existence, Colonial Williamsburg has been an institution that evolves to meet changing circumstances, while reinforcing the mission that the future may learn from the past,” said Campbell. “Coming out of 2009, the Foundation is positioned for success into the future.”

Partnership a sub-theme for 2009

The Foundation expanded its partnership with the Virginia Arts Festival to establish Colonial Williamsburg as a cultural as well as a historical destination and presented sold-out Williamsburg Lodge performances by Patti LuPone, Tiempo Libre and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra during Memorial Day weekend. The goal of the expanded partnership is to present a performance bill of great artists at the Lodge to attract new audiences to Williamsburg.

In the summer, Colonial Williamsburg and the Chautauqua Institution presented a week of programming in Chautauqua, N.Y., on “The History of Liberty” which included several of the Foundation’s Na¬tion Builder interpreters and historian Gordon Wood, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and PBS NewsHour founder and anchor Jim Lehrer, all current or senior Foundation trustees, examining a subject at the heart of Colonial Williams¬burg’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 in 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, Washington, D.C., and Chautauqua. This will be a major commitment by the Foundation to mark the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.

In support of its leadership role in the area’s economy and tourism sector, the Foundation joined other area leaders from the City of Williamsburg, James City and York counties and major educational and business organizations to establish the Historic Triangle Collaborative, a group focused on enhancing regional cooperation, tourism, economic diversification, and integrated regional planning.

The full Colonial Williamsburg Foundation 2009 Annual Report is available online at:

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational and cultural organization dedicated to the preservation, interpretation and presentation of the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia. This town-sized living history museum tells the inspirational stories of our journey to become Americans through programs in the Historic Area and through the award-winning Revolutionary City program. Explore The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg and discover the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum featuring the best in British and American decorative arts from 1670 – 1830 and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum home to the nation’s premier collection of American folk art, comprising more than 5,000 folk art objects made during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Colonial Williamsburg Hotels feature conference spaces and recreation activities from spa and fine dining to world-class golf. Colonial Williamsburg is committed to expanding its thought-provoking programming through education outreach. Purchase of Colonial Williamsburg products and services supports the preservation, research and educational programs of the Foundation.

Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s website at

Media Contact:
Tom Shrout
(757) 220-7265