Our most recent annual Public Open House attracted 2,000 visitors on one Saturday. Audience evaluations indicated that about one-half had not visited the VHS before. This statistic speaks to a critical issue for our institution: the cultivation of untapped audiences is vital to our mission. And, as technology accelerates the availability of information, our "public" becomes all the larger and all the more diverse -- locally, statewide, and even nationally.
On-site visitation during regular operating hours is gratifying, and we are fortunate to have Museum Shop Manager Doris J. Delk's professional staff represent our institution and welcome the public to the Society's headquarters. Some of our most important visitors were the 16,017 school-age children who visited the galleries in 2000, including 3,800 metro Richmond-area students who were able to visit the VHS free of charge. Our Tour Scholarship Fund, which underwrites the cost of admission for students, teachers, and chaperones, enables many to visit who might not otherwise have the means. Membership in the Society for all metro Richmond history teachers is also funded by a restricted endowment, the Florence S. Cabaniss Teachers' Fund, enabling recipients to take full advantage of our slate of programs and publications. Large numbers of students and teachers were only some of the nearly 60,000 visitors to the VHS in 2000. Virginia House saw its attendance increase by more than one-third. We also welcomed 4,442 visitors to our library in 2000, 1,362 from outside Virginia who traveled from forty-eight states as well as ten countries. These figures are supplemented by the number of people accessing our web site, which exceeded 131,000 for the year.
Tourism is Virginia's third largest retail industry, representing one-fifth of the total retail sales in 2000. More than 250 historic sites and topic-specific history museums are scattered across the state, and the number of tourists coming to Virginia is continually growing. The VHS has augmented its marketing efforts at the local, state, and national levels under the visionary leadership of Pamela R. Seay, assistant director for development and public affairs. In order to increase visitation to Richmond-area cultural sites, the VHS worked with local commercial and civic organizations to expand four new programs in 2000. The Richmond Pass was introduced, granting admission to nineteen museums with one admission ticket. We participated in Mall Perks, a program that rewards shoppers with discounted admission to participating attractions with their sales receipts. A Cultural Connection van service was added on weekends, making the VHS more accessible to visitors staying in downtown hotels. Finally, the number of tourist kiosks with information about local sites was greatly increased from four to twenty-eight. These centers are located in the airport, at visitor centers, in hotel lobbies, and in the new VHS welcome center.
During the year 2000, we also created our first education classroom. In July, the VHS opened the Memorial Foundation for Children Classroom, to be used for school programs as well as workshops and presentations to adults.
For the second year, the Society's Wyndham B. Blanton Scholars program brought select high school history students from across the state to attend a private workshop with a leading historian. This year, the students met with A. Scott Berg, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Charles Lindbergh. They attended his lecture on 26 October and the next morning participated in a lively discussion with him about heroism.
In addition to a full slate of teacher workshops and in-school programs throughout Virginia, our education department conducted its eighth annual Teachers' Institute in July, when twenty instructors from across the state were brought together to attend lectures, participate in seminar discussions, and conduct primary research in the Society's library. Continuing the theme from 1999, the Teachers' Institute in 2000, titled "History Underfoot," explored archaeology. It was co-sponsored by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and seven archaeological field schools from across the state. Thousands of students benefit from the experiences that these teachers take back to the classroom.
Our Mellon Fellowship program celebrated its thirteenth year in 2000 by making awards to thirty-one historians and graduate students whose findings are subsequently shared through scholarly presentations as well as the publication of articles and books. You will find a list of our fellows elsewhere in this report. Please note the large number of scholars who are conducting research in women's and minority history. Along with fellows and other scholars, nearly 40 percent of the people coming into our library conducted research on their family history. Thanks to the publication of our Guide to African American Collections a few years ago, an increasing number of African Americans use the VHS to research their family roots.
The Society hosted ten noontime Banner Lectures in 2000 -- an increase from the seven conducted in 1999. A representative sampling of speakers and their topics includes: Michael Kammen, "Robert Gwathmey: A Virginia Vision of African American Life"; Lauranett Lee, "Exploring Emancipation: Adjusting to Freedom in Charlottesville, 1865-1877"; Lang Gibson, "Cabell's Canal: The Story of the James River and Kanawha"; Ernest B. Furgurson, "Not War But Murder: Cold Harbor 1864"; George Gilliam, "How Massive Was Massive Resistance?"; and Mary Buford Hitz, "Elisabeth Scott Bocock: A Study in Contradictions." In addition, we continued a series of informal Gallery Talks, using staff as well as outside speakers. Program topics included: "Pennies to Dollars: The Story of Maggie Lena Walker"; "The Failure and Consequences of Woodrow Wilson's Quest for Peace"; and "The Real Portrait of Pocahontas."
In recent years, the VHS has taken several important steps to increase the presence of minorities in all aspects of the institution itself. Complementing our work to broaden our audience, it is equally important that our organization reflect the public we serve. We are dedicating special attention to strengthening and providing access to collections that relate to minorities in Virginia. At the close of the year, the VHS offered Lauranett Lee the job as curator of African American history. The first person to assume this newly created position, Dr. Lee is responsible for all aspects of curatorial work, including research, collections development, cataloging, and organizing exhibitions for the VHS headquarters and for travel elsewhere. Funding from the Jackson Foundation has allowed us to hire minority museum educators to lead school group tours, and our decent staff is now more representative of the groups touring our museum than ever before.
Though headquartered in Richmond, the VHS maintains a strong presence throughout Virginia with exhibitions, educational programs, and other services. Under the direction of William B. Obrochta, head of educational services, dedicated VHS staff work across the commonwealth with schools to teach history. During the school year, we conduct teacher workshops statewide, devoting special attention to rural communities that are characterized by a high percentage of low-income and minority residents.
The demands on the education department have increased dramatically in recent years. With the implementation of the state-mandated Standards of Learning (SOLs), teachers more and more turn to the VHS for help. As a result, the number of workshops our staff has conducted across the state increased by 50 percent from 1999 to 2000. In addition, we took our innovative history box presentations into classrooms in more than 200 schools statewide, reaching some 16,000 students. This program has been so immensely popular that this year we hired Harold Marsh, Jr., to join Christine Petrie as an outreach educator and help bring the treasures of the VHS to students around the Old Dominion.
Our traveling exhibits and assistance to other historical organizations and museums also serve many rural and urban areas. Many of our staff members provide programs on various topics to clubs, organizations, and participants in training sessions. One of my most interesting outreach assignments was to lead a tour of 35 of our members to England to study some of Virginia's historical roots.
Another important program in 2000 was our production of the television documentary, "Generation of Warriors." Drawing from the personal interviews of World War II veterans from across the state, we produced an hour-long documentary focusing on these soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who are representative of the 250,000 Virginia men and women who served their country in uniform. We are grateful to former trustee Roger Mudd for serving as narrator, and to Dr. Charles Sydnor for broadcasting the program on WCVE-TV as well as promoting it at other public television stations in Virginia. Special thanks also go to Frank G. Louthan, Jr., Elmon T. Gray, Stuart G. Christian, Jr., and many others for making this project happen.
Our communication through electronic media continues to grow. Our on-line catalog, which consists of electronic records of nearly all of the Society's books and serials and almost 25 percent of its huge manuscript holdings, showed increased use throughout the year 2000. A major grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will enable us to complete the conversion of manuscripts and museum object records by 2005. This world-wide access to the Society's collections has also fostered greatly increased use of our materials and visitation to our library. Other new features of our web site include significantly enhanced information on exhibitions and programs, reports of "VHS in the News," resources for teachers and educators, and an e-commerce feature that allows people to shop and buy from our museum store on-line.
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