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Education and Historic Interpretation

Education, Research and Historic Interpretation

Our Core Educational Mission

Colonial Williamsburg is committed to reinvigorating history education and revitalizing its value in today’s society. Through engaging historical interpretation, teacher professional development, scholarly research and education outreach opportunities, we encourage history lovers of all ages and backgrounds to learn, explore and discover our shared American story.

Those who visit the Historic Area in person are invited to become citizens of the 18th century. Here, they meet Virginians, free and enslaved African Americans, travelers from nearby colonies and the Native peoples who preceded the English in America. The talented interpreters who bring the men and women of the Revolution to life transform the Historic Area into a space greater than any classroom. By hiring passionate historians, giving them the tools they need to learn about and develop their characters, and maintaining an authentic, immersive setting for interpreters to interact with guests, we create lasting memories as well as unparalleled opportunities for education and research.

On average, approximately 100,000 guests under the age of 15 visit us each year, and we strive to capture their imaginations and foster their love of American history. Through programs such as Patriots at Play, Colonial Williamsburg provides opportunities for guests of all ages to immerse themselves in Virginia’s colonial capital. We also provide opportunities for local youth to be a part of the Colonial Williamsburg family through our Junior Interpreter and Fifes & Drums programs.

To bring the Colonial Williamsburg experience to the homes, classrooms and communities of those that do not have the chance to visit, we provide teacher development opportunities and online resources that harness the educational techniques we use onsite. For three decades, educators have traveled to Virginia for the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute, the majority receiving donor-funded scholarships. For many teachers, it is the professional development opportunity of a lifetime, providing participants with a fresh perspective on their craft.

Through our knowledgeable interpretive staff and innovative programming, we are able to convey to even our youngest of visitors why this nation’s history matters. Our educational initiatives allow us to reach people in a very real, personal way and to create meaningful experiences that they will remember for years to come.


Initiatives and Accomplishments


  • In 2019, the Teacher Institute celebrates its 30th anniversary. In its decades-long history, nearly 10,000 teachers have graduated from the Institute, which takes place in week-long sessions and three-day seminars every summer. Our outstanding Teacher Institute team has worked hard pairing teachers from across the nation with scholarships and expanding their three-day seminar offerings to include a larger range of targeted content.

  • The Nation Builder program continues to grow, with two veteran Colonial Williamsburg interpreters moving into new roles in 2019.

    A second George Washington interpreter (Daniel Cross) now portrays the young colonel in the early stages of his career. Visitors have the opportunity to come to a better understanding of who Washington was before he rose to fame and became the nation’s first president.Ann Wager (Nicole Brown) was the mistress of Williamsburg’s Bray School, whose mission was to teach basic reading, writing and possibly math skills to children of African descent with the goal of providing religious instruction in the Anglican tradition.

    George Wythe (Robert Weathers) was a true man of the Enlightenment. A lifelong learner with deep interest in the classics, government, science and languages, Wythe’s greatest impact was as a law professor—he instructed Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall and Henry Clay, to name a few of his illustrious students. Wythe will debut in the fall.

  • This year, the Foundation observes the 40th anniversary of African American interpretation. Special events and programs to recognize the groundbreaking successes and complex difficulties that have come with Colonial Williamsburg’s innovative African American programming are planned throughout the year. For example, Revealing the Priceless: Colonial Williamsburg – 40 Years of African American Interpretation, an exhibition at the Raleigh Tavern, takes a closer look at the essential personnel who have made the Historic Area come to life, highlighting the contributions of hundreds of interpreters, historians and curators who represent African American voices of the 18th century. We also are hosting a series of roundtable discussions to illuminate the past, present and future of African American interpretation at the Foundation.

  • The Fifes and Drums attended the Virginia International Tattoo in Norfolk, April 25-28. They played at least once each day, reaching an estimated 45,000 people over the course of the event. The Corps stood alongside professional military bands from around the world—an outstanding opportunity for our young musicians and a chance to raise the Foundation’s profile as home to a remarkable military music program.


Funding Needs

Education, Research and Historic Interpretation initiatives have been made possible by the generosity of our donors. Thank you for supporting The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and for considering additional contributions for the following projects:


Special Endowment Opportunities

  • $15 million to endow costuming for all interpreters
  • $12 million to fully endow the Nation Builders program
  • $10 million to endow the Historic Interpretation program (site and school group interpreters)
  • $10 million to endow Museum Theater, offering programs during the day and in the evening
  • $5 million to endow the position of Vice President of Education, Research and Historic Interpretation
  • $5 million to endow guest orientation (including signage, the daily guide and the website)
  • $1 million to establish an endowment for Historic Area interpreter professional development
  • Contributions of all sizes are welcome for The Nation Builders Endowment Fund, an endowment to support the Nation Builders.

Top Priorities

  • $540,000 to support the Military Program
  • $260,000 to support the American Indian interpretation program
  • $140,000 to support Fifes & Drums
  • $100,000 to underwrite either Grand Illumination or July 4th
  • $60,000 to fund one Nation Builder
  • $40,000 to underwrite winter training for all costumed interpreters
  • $40,000 to support one first-person actor interpreter
  • $30,000 to support one third-person historic interpreter
  • $15,000 to support museum theater (scripted plays at the Charlton, Palace and Play House stages
  • $12,000 to support costumed interpreter shoe repair (four gifts needed)
  • $10,000 to provide wood for cressets used in evening and special programming
  • $10,000 to launder interpreter costumes (12 gifts needed)
  • $10,000 to support the cost of books for interpreters (12 gifts needed)
  • $10,000 to support printing costs for the Map and Program Guide (12 gifts needed)
  • $7,000 to support costuming for one military interpreter
  • $5,000 to support costuming for one third-person historic interpreter
  • $4,000 to support costuming for one fifer or drummer
  • $3,000 for family program supplies (four gifts needed)
  • $2,500 to purchase accessories (eyewear, caps, scarves, mittens/gloves) for interpreters (four gifts needed)