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June 27, 2012

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Advances its Mission as a Center for History, Citizenship and Democracy

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, long known for its restoration of the 18th-century colonial capital of Virginia and depiction of the lives of its inhabitants, is positioning itself as a center for history, citizenship and democracy. Since its inception, the foundation has focused on preserving and honoring the values of citizenship and participatory democracy, and accordingly the organization’s mission statement and strategic direction will openly acknowledge those priorities in the future.

“The reality facing us is that the state of historical literacy in our nation, in no small part related to the continuing decline of heritage and civic education in our schools, is at a dangerously low level. We see ourselves today and into the future as a center for history, citizenship and democracy,” said Colin G. Campbell, president and CEO of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

This new initiative is described in an essay by Campbell in the annual president’s report published in the current issue of the foundation’s journal “Colonial Williamsburg.”

In it Campbell writes, “We will work within our historic frame of reference, the American Revolution, examining its sources and its consequences. Our goal is to advance the public’s understanding of America’s founding democratic principles; to use the past as a vehicle for illuminating the social trends and political choices America faces today; to tell historically authentic stories about people who sought liberty and prosperity and were determined to build a government that fosters both.”

Colonial Williamsburg has been engaged in citizen education for most of its more than 85-year institutional history with even greater emphasis in recent years. At the same time, preservation remains a major focus. The physical restoration of the colonial capital serves as the starting point for understanding and learning from America’s founding. The new emphasis will take the founding period and the struggle for liberty and bring it to life so it has meaning and relevance.

“Within our established institutional structure, Colonial Williamsburg will create thought-provoking new programs and build on existing ones to encourage discussion of the fundamental values of the nation, how they came to be, what it will take to sustain them and why it is critical that we do so,” said Campbell.

In furtherance of its role as a center for history, citizenship and democracy, Colonial Williamsburg will sponsor forums, discussions and town meetings; inquire into the role of the media in a modern democratic society; explore the role of the courts and the rule of law; examine the military and the role of religion in society; and examine the democratic efforts of other nations and link them to our own.

“All this will be done within the framework of the American Revolution and the first, core choices made by our founders,” said Campbell. “The institution that is Colonial Williamsburg, founded in the cause of the future, now has a decades-long legacy of its own. We want to build on existing programs and create new audiences — multi-generational, diverse and international. This is our future.”

The report also highlights achievements in programming and fundraising and operating results for 2011. The foundation gained increased donor support in 2011, advanced its educational outreach and technology initiatives, welcomed a growing number of guests to its museums, expanded collaborations and partnerships and opened the first phase of the reconstructed James Anderson Blacksmith Shop and Public Armoury.

These successes were achieved at a time when consumers were anxious about the nation’s economy and reluctant to travel. The dramatic decline in consumer confidence during the 2011 peak summer travel period was made worse locally by a wet summer and a hurricane in late August. These factors combined to produce unusually challenging circumstances in which operating results were negatively impacted.

From July through September, Colonial Williamsburg’s combined on-site revenues from ticket sales, hospitality and products were $1.7 million or five percent lower than in the prior year. During the other nine months of the year, those on-site revenue sources increased by $1.3 million, or one percent, relative to the prior year.

“We were encouraged at year’s end by strong ticket sales, increased occupancy in our hotels and retail and dining revenue all of which outpaced 2010,” said Campbell.

  • Paid attendance for the full year was 670,500 compared with 686,000 in 2010. An estimated 1.7 million guests visited the Historic Area, equal to 2010. The count is based on a formula that compares visits to Colonial Williamsburg’s open setting with attendance at gated sites, and accounts for the length of stay associated with one-day, two-day, and annual passes, as well as special program tickets.
  • Tickets for evening programs and carriage rides totaled 212,000 compared with 218,000 in 2010.
  • Nearly 1.6 million guests rode Colonial Williamsburg’s buses, compared with 1.7 million in 2010. The buses also shuttled 123,000 passengers to Busch Gardens, Jamestown and Yorktown, down slightly from the prior year.
  • The Colonial Williamsburg Art Museums, among the most visited in Virginia, attracted 211,500 guests in 2011, a one percent increase.
  • Total revenues, including budgeted endowment support, were $179 million in 2011, compared with $185 million the prior year, a decrease of $6 million that includes a decline of $4.5 million in catalog revenues that resulted from the discontinuation of the catalog in the summer of 2010.
  • Expenses totaled $211 million, a decrease of $1 million compared with 2010. Excluding a $5 million decline in catalog expenses, all other expenses increased by $4 million, primarily as a result of increases in employee compensation and other miscellaneous items. The operating deficit in 2011 was $32 million, compared with $27 million the previous year.
  • The endowment value was $709 million as of December 31, 2011, a decrease of $45 million over the 2010 year-end value, after $53 million of planned endowment withdrawals were made during the year to support operations and routine capital expenditures and $8 million of endowment gifts were added. The endowment investment return was zero for the 12 months ended December 31, 2011. This compares favorably with the performance of the global equity markets, which were volatile during 2011 and generated a negative investment return as reflected in the MSCI All Country World Index that produced a return of negative 6.9 percent for the 12 months ended December 31, 2011.
  • Gifts to the Colonial Williamsburg Fund, which supports the operating budget, increased to $14.5 million, compared with $14.3 million in 2010, and gift commitments to the Foundation increased by 25 percent in 2011, to $40 million from $32 million, reflecting growth in donor support in a challenging economic environment.
  • The foundation’s net assets totaled $798 million, a decrease of $110 million primarily as a result of net withdrawals from endowment and an increase in the present value of future pension liabilities due to actuarial adjustments that were made to reflect a significant decline in interest rates during the year.

    The Colonial Williamsburg Fund Increases Donors and Dollars

    The Colonial Williamsburg Fund benefited from growth in both donors and contributions in 2011. The number of contributors increased to nearly 109,000 households with donors from all 50 states. Gifts to the fund totaled $14.5 million, compared with $14.3 million in 2010. “The number of friends making a contribution for the first time increased by eight percent to 19,000, an encouraging affirmation of sustained appreciation for the foundation’s mission,” said Campbell. Members of the Colonial Williamsburg Burgesses, Colonial Williamsburg Associates and Raleigh Tavern Society contributed $5.8 million to the Colonial Williamsburg Fund and a total of $13.7 million to the foundation. Membership in these societies grew again this year with more than 300 new households joining in 2011.

    Major Gifts Increased 25 Percent to $40 Million

    Gift commitments to Colonial Williamsburg increased by 25 percent in 2011 to $40 million from $32 million. The largest gift came from President’s Council members and Raleigh Tavern Society life members Peter and Patricia Frechette of Minneapolis, Minn. Their $2.5 million gift endowed the Peter I. and Patricia O. Frechette director of teacher development, a position currently held by Colonial Williamsburg’s Tab Broyles. The gift also supports other educational outreach initiatives. Colonial Williamsburg trustee Steven L. Miller and his wife, Sheila, of Houston, Texas, made a $1 million gift. Trustee Forrest E. Mars Jr. of Big Horn, Wyo., made two $500,000 gifts, one for Historic Jamestowne operations and programming and a second to reconstruct the tin shop at the armoury site. Senior trustee Robert S. Wilson and his wife, Marion, of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., made a $1 million gift to help endow Colonial Williamsburg’s California Teacher Institute.

    Grants to the foundation included $200,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation of New York for curatorial interns; $200,000 from a private foundation for new development computer software; $150,000 from the Kern Family Foundation of Waukesha, Wis., for religious programming; and a $150,000 challenge grant from the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation of Richmond, Va., for masonry preservation. Dominion Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Dominion Resources Inc., made a $150,000 grant in support of African American interpretive programming.

    Program Highlights

    Archaeological discovery of a Revolutionary War–era tinsmith works at the James Anderson Blacksmith Shop and Public Armoury site inspired Forrest E. Mars Jr. to support the shop’s reconstruction and endowment, adding to his underwriting of R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse and the Armoury. When completed next spring, the armoury site will tell the story of the complexity of mounting a war effort against the world’s most powerful 18th-century empire.

    The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg presented new exhibitions of early American maps and prints, fashion and accessories from 1600 to 1840, the 1790–1820 furniture of John Shearer, clay masterworks of North Carolina earthenware, and The Old Plantation, a rare 18th-century watercolor depicting slave life.

    The foundation enlivened the guest experience through such additional opportunities as the Fun Zone at the Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel & Suites, Live after Five programming in the Historic Area, Salute to the Nation on summer Friday nights – featuring Colonial Williamsburg’s Fifes and Drums and fireworks – expanded “in the moment” interpretations in the Historic Area and creative museum exhibitions.

    “RevQuest: Sign of the Rhinoceros,” a historically-based alternate reality game, enabled families to engage with each other, history and the Historic Area by challenging participants to solve a mystery and avert a crisis that could alter the course of the Revolution. Players started online before reaching Williamsburg and on arrival interacted with interpreters and clues communicated through personal mobile technology. More than 10,000 guests of all ages played. The success led to planning of a new edition of the game for 2012.

    Condé Nast Traveler magazine named the Colonial Houses–Historic Lodging hotel properties on its 2011 “Best of the World” list, and its readers ranked the Williamsburg Inn and Williamsburg Lodge among the top resorts in the United States. Forbes Travel Guide named the Inn a four-star hotel, one of only three in Virginia.

    Thousands of guests at December’s annual Grand Illumination fireworks enjoyed extended hours, more convenient refreshment stands and special kits containing blankets and glow sticks, as well as a new mobile site to help plan their visit and share their experience in real time via social media.

    Educational Outreach Connects Colonial Williamsburg with Millions

    Educational outreach media and teacher development programs engaged new audiences. More than 1,500 teachers attended workshops on-site and online. The Emmy Award–winning Electronic Field Trip series broadcast to an audience of six million viewers in 49 states and Canada. For Constitution Day, Colonial Williamsburg provided complimentary access for 5,700 schools and families to “A More Perfect Union,” a field trip about the Constitution’s ratification.

    For the general public, the foundation produced the “Idea of America: Citizens Edition” – a digital, interactive, online history curriculum that brings American history to life and invites participants to look at history in a new way — through the lens of key and sometimes conflicting American values including unity and diversity, freedom and equality, private wealth and common wealth, and law and ethics.

    The foundation’s websites logged 8.5 million visits, an increase of 12 percent over 2010, and four million podcast and vodcast downloads. Colonial Williamsburg Connect, a new online American history, citizenship and democracy program for the general public, enabled online visitors to explore and discuss American history and 21st-century responsibilities as citizens through webcasts and discussion forums.

    Nearly 3,800 individuals followed the foundation on Twitter, up more than 2,300, and Facebook fans grew to 44,000 in 2011. A Duke of Gloucester Street “flash mob” performance by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir generated nearly 170,000 views on YouTube and nationwide news media attention.

    “As technology enables us to connect with the world, the reach of Colonial Williamsburg has never been greater,” said Campbell. “Our educational outreach and teacher development programs continue to expand, visits to our websites are growing dramatically, and if there are social media channels to exploit with the lessons of American history, we are doing so. The opportunities for engagement are only limited by our imagination.”

    Collaborations and Partnerships Educate and Entertain
    Colonial Williamsburg and Preservation Virginia’s Historic Jamestowne collaborated in support of the world-class archaeology conducted at the site of England’s first permanent New World outpost. There were new opportunities for interpretive programs, as guests saw settler sites unearthed and dramatic presentations telling the stories of Jamestown’s struggles to survive. A partnership with the Chautauqua Institution and the Smithsonian created the symposium “Storm on the Horizon: Slavery, Disunion, and the Roots of the Civil War,” which convened in Williamsburg. The foundation presented a weeklong series on the subject at Chautauqua as part of that institution’s summer program. Partnerships with the Virginia Arts Festival, the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, the Williamsburg Symphonia and An Occasion for the Arts expanded arts opportunities for guests and residents.

    Leadership: Farrell Elected Chairman; Three Awarded Churchill Bell

    In a planned transition, Thomas F. Farrell II became chairman of the board of trustees in November 2011. He had been elected vice chairman and chairman-elect the year before. Farrell is chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Dominion Resources Inc., headquartered in Richmond, Va. He became a foundation trustee in 2006. Farrell succeeded Richard G. Tilghman who became chairman emeritus. Leslie A. Miller of Bryn Mawr, Pa., joined the trustees in 2011. An attorney in private practice, Miller is an advisor to Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and was the first woman to serve as general counsel of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and as president of the Pennsylvania Bar Association. She and Richard B. Worley, her husband and a senior trustee, funded the Leslie Anne Miller and Richard B. Worley Gallery in the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and have supported interpretive programming in the Historic Area. Afsaneh Beschloss, president and chief executive officer of the Rock Creek Group and former chief investment officer of the World Bank, retired from the board after 12 years of service and became a senior trustee.

    In April 2011, the foundation presented the Churchill Bell to three leading American citizens: journalist Jim Lehrer, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and historian Gordon Wood, each a former trustee of the foundation. The award, the foundation’s highest, is given to those who exemplify active and engaged citizenship, building upon the principles of liberty, courage, dignity and devotion to the common good interpreted by Colonial Williamsburg onsite and through the foundation’s educational initiatives.

    The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation 2011 report is available online at:

    Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit center for history, citizenship and democracy, encouraging audiences at home and around the world to learn from the past. This town-sized living history museum tells the inspirational stories of our journey to become Americans through programs in 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, 20th and 21st centuries. Colonial Williamsburg is committed to expanding its thought-provoking programming through education outreach on-site and online. Purchase of Colonial Williamsburg products and services supports the preservation, research and educational programs of the Foundation. Philanthropic support by individuals, corporations, and foundations benefits the educational mission of The Colonial Williamsburg 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

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