An update from President Cliff Fleet
I hope that you and your family are staying healthy and secure during what I know is a difficult and uncertain time for all of us. As a vital public history site—and one that is also cherished for its hospitality—this season of closure has been challenging for our entire Colonial Williamsburg family, I know.
As both a leading cultural institution and a member of this community, it’s important that we do our part to help our neighbors in these trying times. I’m proud to share the ways Colonial Williamsburg is deploying existing resources to support greater Williamsburg and its surrounding areas. Even more importantly, I am proud to share the collaboration and partnerships at work across our community that make these outreach efforts possible:
- Our hospitality team has been preparing, packing and donating more than 2,000 meals a week to our neighbors in need and will continue to do so through April. But we aren’t making this impact alone. Williamsburg Area Meals on Wheels and Williamsburg House of Mercy are delivering hundreds of those meals daily, directly to those in need. The Village Initiative, too, is generously distributing hundreds of lunches to the community each week with assistance from faith and educational organizations throughout the Historic Triangle.
- And this Easter Sunday, our culinary team will donate 900 family meals— hot turkey dinners with sides, each feeding a family of four—to be delivered by Meals on Wheels to some of our area’s most vulnerable residents. The Foundation has been overwhelmed with support from the community for this project, receiving generous contributions of food and culinary talent from the Williamsburg Area Restaurant Association and local restaurant owners and culinary staff of Axe Republic, Blue Talon, Fat Canary, Waypoint and the Whaling Company.
- All the while, our housekeeping, hotel, operations and other staff have readied and reopened the Governor’s Inn property to provide comfortable emergency housing and meal arrangements.
- We continue to keep open a portion of the Lodge and a limited number of Colonial Houses primarily so that we can offer emergency accommodations to healthcare organizations and government entities.
- And we are mindful that the pandemic is devastating for virtually all restaurants and retailers. To help mitigate the impact on Merchants Square, we have waived all rent payments for these merchants for the month of April.
- In the Historic Area, our historic gardeners are donating bags of fresh produce from the gardens to be distributed as groceries by The Village Initiative.
During the closure, the streets of the Historic Area remain open to the public. We have opened the Governor’s Palace grounds to the community from 10a-3p daily, as our public safety team ensures proper social distancing measures are followed.
Though our Historic Area buildings and Art Museums are temporarily closed, staff across the Foundation are working hard to fulfill our mission digitally and make it accessible to all. From livestreaming our Nation Builders to curating new web and Facebook pages full of educational resources, we are transforming our offerings into online experiences and resources. To share a by-the-numbers view of the positive impact, we have:
- Posted 200% more to social media, achieved 7 million impressions and gained 3,700 new followers
- Received 399,000 views of new video content, including Facebook Live sessions
- Increased website traffic from social media by 52% in one week
- Increased overall website engagement by 18%
- Generated 30,000 views of our Teacher Resource Library
- Increased engagement of donation-related webpages
In closing, I want to express my gratitude and admiration for our partners across the community for their selfless efforts—Thank you. A very special thanks is also owed to the healthcare, frontline, public safety and essential workers across Williamsburg who are keeping our community safe.
Please know how much we look forward to welcoming you—our guests, employees and the community—back to Colonial Williamsburg when it becomes safe to do so. Until then, be safe and well.