February 26, 2006
Foundation grant makes possible new high-tech audio tours
Twenty-first-century technology will enable Colonial Williamsburg guests to better understand and appreciate 18th-century Revolutionary War-era Virginia beginning this spring – all made possible through a grant from the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation.
The $112,500 grant will be used to purchase portable communication devices aimed at delivering new optional audio tours of Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area. With the grant funds, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation will purchase 150 random access MP3 players, allowing use by several hundred families per day.
“The grant from the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation opens the door to an exciting era,” said Richard McCluney, Colonial Williamsburg’s Royce R. and Kathryn M. Baker vice president for productions, publications and learning ventures. “It allows us to introduce 21st-century technology to our interpretation of Revolutionary America. To truly allow the future to learn from the past, it is essential to connect with new, young, tech-savvy and diverse special interest audiences through programs that provide quality interpretation for those next generation audiences.”
The audio tours will offer visitors a self-paced introduction to Colonial Williamsburg with special emphasis on the new educational curriculum: “From Subjects to Citizens: Our Struggle to Be Both Free and Equal.” Focusing on important historical themes and elements, three themed tours will be available initially with plans to expand to six or more by next year. Future tours will be offered in multiple languages for international and non-English speaking guests. A modest rental fee will apply for use of the players.
Colonial Williamsburg is working with Antenna Audio, a major service provider for museum audio tours. Other museums using Antenna Audio include Washington’s National Portrait Gallery, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Boston’s Freedom Trail, London’s National Gallery, The Louvre in Paris and numerous other sites around the world.
The late Mary Morton Parsons established the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation in 1988 in Richmond. During her lifetime, Parsons devoted her efforts to many philanthropic purposes. Executive director Hugh K. Leary said, “We are happy that the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation was in a position to work with Colonial Williamsburg on this worthwhile project.”
The Mary Morton Parsons Foundation has been a long-time supporter of Colonial Williamsburg and made a challenge grant for the Peyton Randolph House outbuildings in 1999 and a separate grant for architectural research in 1992.