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Colonial Williamsburg seeks to raise $600 million

November 21, 2014

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation — which runs a popular living history museum that brings the 18th century to life with actors and restored buildings — announced Friday that it has embarked on a $600 million fundraising campaign.

The foundation launched the private phase of the campaign in 2009 and says it has already raised more than $300 million toward its goal. The public phase begins Saturday, the foundation said.

Colonial Williamsburg is the world’s largest living history museum, with more than 400 restored or reconstructed original buildings in Virginia’s 18th century Williamsburg capitol.

“This is a very special campaign. The size, of course, is one aspect of it. But I think more importantly, is what this number can do for Colonial Williamsburg, for our core educational mission and for observing this unique place. It’s very special, I think, in the hearts of all Americans,” said Colonial Williamsburg Foundation President Mitchell Reiss.

The money will go toward a variety of projects, including an expansion of Colonial Williamsburg’s art museums. Other funds will go toward preserving historic area buildings and gardens, as well as research and museum exhibitions.

The foundation oversees the largest colonial-period archaeological collection in the United States, and funding would also go toward an archaeological-collections building to provide support for archaeologists.

Reiss said the foundation sees its mission as more important than ever because many schools are cutting back on their American history and civics offerings, as well as field trips.

“Younger people are not as interested, are not being taught as much history as previous generations were. In a sense, that makes our story here all the more important,” Reiss said. “We know that they learn different ways than older folks did, so that means taking much more advantage of new technologies, digitizing parts of Colonial Williamsburg, figuring how we can engage them before we can inspire them.”

Some of the campaign money would be used to extend the foundation’s reach beyond Williamsburg with new teaching initiatives, professional development for teachers and a colonial trades television series. Investments also would be made in new media and technology.

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Online: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

www.history.org/foundation/

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Brock Vergakis can be reached at www.twitter.com/BrockVergakis

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