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CW Journal : Winter 08 : Message from the President

Message from the President

An Integrated, Interactive, Interdependent Agenda

President Colin G. Campbell

President Colin G. Campbell

By every measure, 2007’s commemoration of Jamestown’s 400th anniversary was a terrific success, and The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation appreciates the opportunities it had to participate in, and to promote, a series of remarkable events. We began getting ready for the quadricentennial in 2000, and the effort paid off. Now that this is behind us, we are looking again to the future, toward realizing the continuing potential of the facilities and program investments made the past eight years.

We return to the agenda of regular business—if there is such a thing as regular business in an organization as dynamic as ours. We remind ourselves how important it is to function as One Foundation, working across divisional lines, to be maximally effective and efficient. We are refocused on the highest quality guest experience, our educational programs, financial goals, institutional stewardship, and workforce development.

Those aims complement one another. Take guest experience. Everybody—front-line interpreters, operations personnel, staff serving hotel and restaurant guests—all are involved in creating guest experiences. If we are successful in achieving high quality, we’ll contribute toward encouraging longer, multiday visits, which in turn support financial aims and stewardship goals. So does an approach to programming that fosters continual renewal, and makes more effective use of technology.

As outstanding as Revolutionary City is, it would be ill-advised to rest on its laurels. Finding fresh approaches to presenting our educational message has to become a way of life, continuing to improve programs we have, and developing appealing new ones. To reach rising generations, we must, consistent with our commitment to authenticity, find new ways to encourage guest interaction with interpreters, and use the technologies to which younger generations are accustomed. Evenings in Williamsburg offer less activity than guests want. Our current evening programs are popular and consistent with the rest of what we do, but they are in smaller venues and often sold out. We must develop more such activities that provide more resources for more guests. In a similar vein, we must enhance continuing education opportunities like the Antiques Forum and the woodworking symposium, which are so enjoyed by some of our most loyal friends. We have a $1 million National Endowment for the Humanities challenge grant for African American programming—a third-party affirmation of Colonial Williamsburg’s preeminence in the area. We want to make the most of that opportunity, building on what we have developed over the last eight years.

Our Education for Citizenship effort clearly resonates with guests. They applaud the emphasis it puts on the importance of individual participation in a democratic republic, see how that made a difference in eighteenth-century Williamsburg, and understand the contemporary relevance. On-site and off, a focus on citizenship is a timely educational strategy that we must advance. It reaches larger audiences outside Williamsburg, extends knowledge and understanding of Colonial Williamsburg, provides incentives to visit, and demonstrates “That the future may learn from the past.” It helps us plant the seeds for visitation in the future.

If stewardship embraces the all-important responsibility to protect and preserve our collections, buildings, and intellectual property—and it does—it also envisions the improvement of the guest experience through such projects as the about-to-be-built south wing of the Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. The expansion will make exhibits more convenient and inviting, and the entire complex more accessible.

At bottom, stewardship is about sustaining Colonial Williamsburg in times to come, controlling its fate, and making plans that are consistent with our financial goals: positive cash flow, a balanced budget, and endowment growth. Simple but fundamental concepts. Not so simple, perhaps, but as important, are the people who execute the plans.

We must promote the development and recruitment of our workforce. In an economy such as this, securing motivated and qualified employees is a regional challenge. Our objective is to ensure that the institution’s staff is prepared to carry Colonial Williamsburg into the decades to come.

Ours is an integrated, interactive, interdependent agenda.
It’s ambitious.
So must we be.

Colin G. Campbell
Chairman and President