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September 25, 2007

CW awarded grant from Institute of Museum and Library Services

A “Museums for America” grant in the amount of $149,838 has been awarded to The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) for the development of an interactive civics program that complements its education outreach initiatives. The program will link classrooms across the nation in a digital gaming experience named “The Virtual Republic.”

The new program is part of a major high school American history curriculum project by Colonial Williamsburg, called the Idea of America™. In partnership with a national education publisher, Colonial Williamsburg is developing a new generation digital high school curriculum.

“The Idea of America program is grounded in the foundation’s mission and our education for citizenship initiative,” said Richard McCluney, the Royce R. and Kathryn M. Baker vice president of productions, publications and learning ventures. “We believe that every citizen of the United States must understand the history of this nation – stories of ordinary citizens in action directing and guiding their government. By examining the past, today’s students will learn how individuals shaped their communities, their states and their nation; and thus will understand their own responsibilities as citizens.”

“We are using what we have learned from more than 10 years of developing digital interactive media for our Electronic Field Trip series to enliven high school American history and civics classrooms with our living history museum’s active teaching methods,” said Bill White, Colonial Williamsburg’s executive producer and director of education program development.

Students will examine case studies from American history – topics such as slavery, Reconstruction, religion and government, civilian control of the military, immigration, the Great Depression or the Watergate scandal to learn how citizens debated and engaged the issues of their time. Every case study will link to current events and students will have an opportunity to examine the issues critical to our nation today.

“It isn’t enough for students to examine the issues,” said White. “The Virtual Republic will provide these students a forum for debating the issues with other students across the nation.”

The Internet gaming format will link students in a simulation moderated by a team of Colonial Williamsburg educators and teachers who will monitor the progress of the Virtual Republic and create situations requiring students to respond. The virtual world will be more complex than the simple creation of a national Congress and Supreme Court. It will include local community groups, local government entities and state governments, each competing for the attention of elected representatives and working to influence the course of their communities, states and nation.

“The IMLS grant will be used to create the prototype and help us determine exactly what the program will look like,” said White. “What’s most exciting is the opportunity for students from a district such as Dallas, for example, to debate important issues with students from Detroit or Boston or Minneapolis. This is precisely how our democracy works, and we want to get students excited about their civic responsibilities and the relevance of American history.”

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute’s mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about the Institute, visit

Established in 1926, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture – stories of our journey to become Americans – while historic trades people research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution for its guests, it also invites them to interact with history. Williamsburg is located 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information or reservations, call toll-free 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg on the Internet at

Media Contact:
Barbara Brown
(757) 220-7280