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Message from the President

An Institution in Transition

Colin Campbell talks to Nation Builders-interpreters of the famous and the less well known in Williamsburg's history.

Photo by Dave Doody

Colin Campbell talks to Nation Builders—interpreters of the famous and the less well known in Williamsburg's history. From left, James Ingram as Gowan Pamphlet, Richard Schumann as Patrick Henry, Valarie Gray-Holmes as Lydia Broadnax, and Bill Barker as Thomas Jefferson. Each interpreter makes special appearances in the 301-acre Historic Area.

IN ITS SEVENTY-EIGHTH year, 2004, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation reached more people, more effectively, than ever before. A key to our outreach success has been to showcase our educational excellence via technology, for example our distance learning programs. It was a year of achievement across the spectrum of the foundation's endeavors, encompassing not only education but our museums, as well as retail and hospitality efforts.

It also was a year of challenge, a year in which the institution faced a continuing decline in the appeal of history museums, evolving demographics, shifting public tastes, and sharp competition from other vacation destinations. It was a year in which we were clearly reminded that this is a time of transition.

COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG'S Electronic Field Trips—interactive history lessons televised to classrooms nationally and internationally—reached about 200 new schools, from Hawaii to Italy, from Alaska to Florida, and broadcast three new productions. More than 9.3 million people, a 12 percent increase over the 8.3 million of 2003, visited our five Web sites to explore history and to research our vacation and recreational opportunities.

More than a thousand teachers participated in the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute for Early American History. Each year this program introduces teachers to Colonial Williamsburg's Historic Area and museums and to the foundation's instructional resources, and the teachers return to their schools to share with their students and colleagues what they have learned. The ripple effects are enormous.

The foundation launched initiatives to bring to guests more interaction with interpreters portraying people who founded America—not only men like Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry but free and enslaved blacks, and women. Planning began for an Education for Citizenship curriculum that will inform programming and outreach in the years to come. The aim is to encourage each individual to participate in the public life of his or her community to achieve greater liberty, justice, and opportunity. It will be our fundamental orientation and embrace introductory tours, interpretive programming, our Web sites, and a secondary schools initiative.

In Merchants Square, the foundation completed and dedicated the College Corner Building, an architectural masterwork that includes WILLIAMSBURG At Home, as well as Talbots, Legg Mason, and a planned expansion of Binns. The foundation's retail outlets in Merchants Square were remerchandised and our product line expanded. Catalog and e-commerce sales continued to grow, extending Colonial Williamsburg's "brand," as did product licensing activity.

Renovation of the Williamsburg Lodge began in earnest. When completed in late 2006, the Lodge will be a state of the art conference center with 323 rooms for leisure and conference guests. Across the street, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum began its move to larger and more accessible quarters adjoining the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum as we perfected plans to transform its former home into a spa.

The future presents great opportunity for us. We became an active partner in Jamestown 2007, the umbrella group organizing the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of England's first permanent settlement in the New World, by making a $3 million, multiyear funding commitment. As a Founding Colony Sponsor of the observances, Colonial Williamsburg will be an active partner in quatercentennial events, provide our Visitor Center as a regional guest hub, coordinate lodging reservations, and fulfill our designation as the official hotels and conference site for the commemoration.

These and other 2004 initiatives were matched by the record-setting support of the foundation's generous donors. Contributions totaled more than $40 million, and drove the $500 million Campaign for Colonial Williamsburg to 79 percent of its goal. There were more than 100,000 names on the donor rolls again during the year.

The numbers are reassuring in that they demonstrate enthusiastic endorsement of Colonial Williamsburg's purpose: preserving the setting, presenting the story, and underlining the modern significance and relevance of a pivotal time and place in our nation's founding.

THERE IS REASSURANCE that Americans recognize the importance of Colonial Williamsburg's message, and it gives us confidence as we tackle the challenges of declining ticket sales and persistent operating deficits. During the past few years, we have closely monitored the continuing pressure on historic sites across the country, and responded with investments in programming, facilities, marketing, strategic planning, and careful budgeting. Last year it became apparent that we needed to probe the changing circumstances more deeply. We conducted extensive guest research and brand analysis studies to help us better define our current audience and its perceptions and expectations. Importantly, the findings also serve as a guide to broaden our audience base.

The research showed that public tastes and interests continue to change rapidly, that children's say in family vacation planning is growing, that our core audience is steadfast but aging, and that for many an emphasis on education is not as compelling at vacation time as the promise of entertainment. Fortunately, Colonial Williamsburg offers both. The key, though, is to be faithful to the foundation's mission while focusing more on the connections between twenty-first century realities and the eighteenth-century history that sets Williamsburg apart—that is, focusing more on the future. This requires strengthening and increasing the rich personal stories that make our programs relevant, dynamic, and powerfully memorable to our current and prospective audience.

We continue to mine the data for what they say about the interests of our larger potential audience—and we will continue to change as the times demand. Colonial Williamsburg is in transition. It is, however, maintaining its core focus, developing responses, and embracing emerging opportunities, all within the context of a timeless mission: "That the future may learn from the past."

Colin G. Campbell
Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation



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