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Heritage tourism—getting back to basics at Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

The seven wonders of the ancient world—perhaps the first “bucket list” compilation, is an early example of heritage tourism. In 18th- and 19th-century Europe, the Grand Tour of the ruins of ancient Greece and Rome were essentially required as part of the education curriculum for the upper classes. Over the past several decades, heritage tourism has been pitched both as a marketing plan by travel companies and an economic development plan by local, state, and national governments. Today, there are efforts at the World Bank and other international development organizations to utilize the restoration of historic cities and heritage sites in sustainable development plans across the developing world.

Beginning in the 1930s, the restoration and reconstruction of colonial-era buildings in Williamsburg, Virginia, funded largely by a Rockefeller fortune, led to the development of one of the most important historic and heritage tourism sites in the United States. Indeed, it has served as a model for heritage tourism around the world in some cases and a warning by others of the types of “reconstructed” history that lack sufficient integrity or authenticity. As Colonial Williamsburg expanded over the last several decades to include hotels, golf courses, and other attractions, the cost of managing the historic area outran the pace of fundraising required to sustain the enterprise. Now, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is looking to reduce the financial footprint of the organization, something these opinion writers believe is a good thing for the mission of the Foundation, not just its finances.


Editorial: Colonial Williamsburg's new mission should be a return to its old one

By The Virginia-Pilot Editorial Board

July 9, 2017

Also see

Downsizing a colonial capital

Posted by International Heritage News Network

July 4, 2017

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