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CW Journal : Autumn 10 : Message from the President

President Colin G. Campbell

President Colin G. Campbell

Message from the President


It’s a story we probably don’t tell often enough. Williamsburg’s restoration actually began forty-two years before W. A. R. Goodwin interested philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. in the idea. It started in 1884 when Cynthia Beverley Tucker Coleman organized Bruton Parish children to refurbish the disintegrating tombstones in their church’s ancient graveyard. Next, she rescued the tumbledown Magazine, and soon, at her Nicholson Street home, she and Mary Jeffrey Galt of Norfolk founded the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities—today’s Preservation Virginia.

APVA secured for posterity not only the Magazine but the Gaol, the Palace icehouse, and the Capitol’s foundations, as well as the 22.5 acres of Jamestown Island on which the 1607 colonists built their fort. Those acres and 1,477 more on the island under the stewardship of the National Park Service make up Historic Jamestowne.

In 1926, Dr. Goodwin, who had been allied with Mrs. Coleman since 1904, fostered collaborations between her group and Mr. Rockefeller in the operation and management of APVA’s historic Williamsburg properties. The mutual benefits were manifest. By 1980, Colonial Williamsburg was steward of those properties.

The collaboration continued— most recently, the foundation, APVA, and the NPS worked closely with the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation and other Historic Triangle interests to commemorate Jamestown’s quadricentennial. In September of this year, the collaboration took a giant step forward.

Colonial Williamsburg signed a renewable five-year agreement to assume APVA Preservation Virginia’s operations, management, and external affairs responsibilities at Historic Jamestowne. Jim Horn, our vice president for research and historical interpretation, leads the initiative, supported by $3.5 million in gifts to the foundation restricted to this purpose.

This is an extraordinary opportunity. It advances public archaeology as practiced at the Historic Jamestowne site led by Dr. Bill Kelso, which complements our work at Charlton’s Coffeehouse and the Anderson Blacksmith and Public Armoury. Elizabeth Kostelny, Preservation Virginia’s executive director, says, “We believe that this collaborative effort will utilize the archaeological research as a basis for new and creative public programming and elevate awareness of this site and its history.” The Nathalie P. and Alan M. Voorhees Archaearium on Jamestown Island, which displays the archaeological discoveries, will also be the responsibility of Dr. Horn and his Colonial Williamsburg colleagues.

To maintain their currency, historic sites must deepen their knowledge and understanding of the history they talk about, and that is just what we are doing. “Together,” Ms. Kostelny says, “we can accomplish what neither of our organizations could support alone.”

Historic Jamestowne is a national and international site, and yet its history is not widely acknowledged. We are determined to change that. With the NPS, which also is the Yorktown Battlefield’s custodian, the foundation and APVA Preservation Virginia are asking the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization to assign Virginia’s Historic Triangle—with original sites Historic Jamestowne, Colonial Williamsburg, and the Yorktown Battlefield—World Heritage status. It would be the twenty-first in America, joining such designees as Independence Hall and the Statue of Liberty.

Within the Historic Triangle, the English established their first permanent colony in North America, began sustained contact with Indian peoples, brought enslaved Africans into an emerging cultural diversity, and launched the American experiment in representative government. Although the two major museums operated by the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation (Jamestown Settlement and the Yorktown Victory Center) do not meet UNESCO criteria, they too stand to benefit from this effort.

It will be at least five years before World Heritage site designation can be achieved, but bringing Historic Triangle groups together to move the process forward promises to be invaluable and will advance Colonial Williamsburg’s mission: That the future may learn from the past.

Colin G. Campbell
President and CEO