WILLLIAMSBURG - The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation announced a $600 million fundraising campaign Friday that will benefit its missions of history education and historical preservation.
The drive is $100 million more than the $500 million drive that ran 1995-2006 in anticipation of the 400th anniversary commemorations at Jamestown in 2007. That campaign exceeded its goal.
The current drive will raise funds to go, in part, to the foundation's mission of preserving the surviving colonial buildings, "the very halls, homes and taverns where visionaries like Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry debated the promise—and perils—of a revolution that would change the course of human history," according to a foundation release announcing the fundraising drive that was embargoed until midnight Friday.
The foundation also hopes to find a way to fire the public's imagination to make the Historic Area's 18th century buildings relevant again. Investments in the campaign will, according to the foundation, strengthen and expand the programs, staff, facilities and technology for that purpose
“The American Revolution set in motion the world’s greatest experiment in representative government; it remains a touchstone that helps Americans understand who we are and how we have evolved as such a diverse and enterprising society,” said Colonial Williamsburg president Mitchell B. Reiss.
Reiss and other foundation leaders will officially announce the fundraising drive on Saturday during a ceremony at the Capitol.
“By preserving the artifacts, stories and very setting of the Revolution, Colonial Williamsburg offers modern Americans a direct link to the founding generation—whose extraordinary words and deeds challenge us to embrace our own roles in shaping our country’s future,” Reiss added.
The Campaign for History and Citizenship has already raised more than $300 million in a quiet phase that began in 2009. It was led by Colin Campbell, chairman emeritus of the foundation, who retired as president on Oct. 5.
Jump-starting the campaign is a new, $13 million commitment from senior trustees Abby M. and George D. O’Neill of Oyster Bay, N.Y. The gift, which their son Peter M. O’Neill will announce at Saturday’s campaign launch, will provide unrestricted funds to address both immediate and future needs throughout Colonial Williamsburg.
The couple are not new contributors to Colonial Williamsburg with a previous gift of $1.1 million in the current campaign and more than $21 millon contributed over the years, including support for teacher development in New York State. Mrs. O’Neill is the eldest grandchild of John D. Rockefeller Jr., Colonail Williamsburg's original patron who launched the restoration nearly 90 years ago.
The Campaign for History and Citizenship will have four major areas of focus:
- $163.5 million to update Historic Area programming and introduce new voices and new methods. That will include more focus on the lives of African-Americans and American Indians, the struggle for religious freedom and the critical role of the military.
- The Arts Museums of Colonial Williamsburg are a major focus of the campaign. A $40 million project, which will improve public access to the building by created a long-planned main entrance to the museums and add 8,000 square feet of new gallery space, a 22 percent increase. Colonial Williamsburg spokesman Joe Straw reported Thursday that the foundation has already raised $10.8 million toward this goal.
- Expansion of the museums is also key to a proposed $185 million investment that will include a new, state-of-the-art archaeology lab. A third major Historic Area project is the reconstructed Market House, a vital part of 18th-century. Trustee and major benefactor Forrest Mars Jr. has committed to funding the Market House’s reconstruction in its entirety. He previously patroned reconstructions of Charlton's Coffee House and the Armoury. The foundation hopes to raise $100 million for critical preservation efforts, on existing buildings.
- Educational outreach is part of Colonial Williamsburg’s mission and is the campaign's fourth major focus. Colonial Williamsburg will increase its efforts to fill in the gaps in history and civics instruction created by budget cuts and competing academic priorities. A proposed $64.5 million investment go toward continued development of outreach programs that reach national and global audiences. Teacher training programs and the creation of new classroom materials, like the foundation's award-winning Electronic Field Trip series, will supplement the teaching of American history and civics.
Beyond the major focus items other goals of the fundraising effort are to add $32 million to the foundations general endowment and to add $125 million to the Colonial Williamsburg Fund, which supports daily operations
“At a time of such political, economic and cultural challenges—in the United States, and throughout the world—Colonial Williamsburg grounds us in the principles that have sustained us as a nation for more than 230 years,” said Steven L. Miller, Colonial Williamsburg trustee and chairman of the Campaign for History and Citizenship. “These investments by our supporters will ensure that this Revolutionary City will continue to inform and inspire many generations of Americans to come.”
Vaughan can be reached at 757-345-2343.