Colonial Williamsburg President Mitchell Reiss announced a $10 million gift Wednesday from Forrest Mars Jr. that will fund a new archaeological center.
The announcement came during the foundation's annual Community Leaders Breakfast. The new center will be named for Nancy and Colin Campbell. Mars previously funded the Charlton Coffeehouse, the Public Armoury and the new $1 million Market House currently under construction in the Historic Area.
Reiss also unveiled a laundry list of new initiatives. Complete details have not been firmed up. They include:
* A musket range where guests can fire a reproduction of an 18th century firearm at a target bearing the likeness of King George III.
* A loosely dubbed "petting farm" for children. No details on a location or what animals may be involved were released.
* Children's archaeology site. A location near the Prentis Shop would house an active, hands-on dig geared toward children. It's tentatively scheduled to open June 6.
* Children can also participate in lighting a cannon. The activity would be part of the "On to Yorktown" program.
* A lower price point for costume rentals. The Visitor Center currently rents costumes for children. It's unclear whether the new initiative would expand to adults. Reiss said in an earlier interview that he and his wife, Elisabeth, donned costumes on Christmas Day and walked through the Historic Area greeting guests.
* A Halloween event. This program also involves Mars. Participants would trick or treat along Duke of Gloucester. The candy they receive would be products produced by Mars' company.
In the Spring edition of the Colonial Williamsburg Journal, Reiss talked about how recent gifts from Mars and another unnamed donor have spurred the largest reconstruction program in the Historic Area in half a century.
"I can think of no better affirmation of Colonial Williamsburg’s lasting significance than such diversity among its supporters. With that has come new ideas and fresh, sometimes challenging perspectives, and we are so much the better for it," Reiss wrote.
Wednesday's news of the latest Mars gift comes on the heels of last August's debut of a new conservation analytical lab. It houses a suite of advanced analytical instruments that include a handheld x-ray fluorescence spectrometer, an infrared micro-spectrometer and a fluorescence microscope.
During Wednesday's breakfast Reiss also talked about new ticket options, They're based on research that shows vacations are now shorter than in years past. Guests purchasing a multi-day ticket this year would be able return any time until Dec. 31. Another option is a "sampler" ticket that would grant access to a limited number of sites. For example, guests might choose two restored building and two trades to visit. Details are forthcoming.
Reiss also touched on the foundation's new marketing strategy. He said it will "skew heavily" toward digital and include a heavy emphasis on social media, the Internet and "earned media" such as news and feature coverage.
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