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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Ten Questions with Matthew Webster, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Matt Webster at the Bray School move on the morning of February 10, 2023. (Photo credit: Brian Newson, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)

HISTORIC TRIANGLE — “Ten Questions with” is a series that allows readers to get to know local business leaders, volunteers, and community members in the Historic Triangle.

This week, meet Matthew Webster.

What is your job title and description?

Executive Director, Architectural Preservation and Research with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. The department oversees architectural conservation, architectural research and design, architectural collections (12,000-piece architectural fragments collection), and historic interiors. We work to protect and accurately show the 604 structures in the Historic Area.

Who do you interact/work with regularly?

We work with almost every department at Colonial Williamsburg. We work with modern maintenance, architecture and engineering, interpretation, research, development, curators, conservators, etc. to make sure the historic resources are protected.

How do you/your organization interact with the local community?

Our work is in front of the community. We speak to many people who come by the sites we are working on. We also lecture frequently.

What is something about your job most people wouldn’t know about?

We deal with a lot of modern systems and spend a lot of time hiding them. Most people do not know about all the modern infrastructure we hide in the Historic Area. We also do a lot of work in Merchants Square, which is a National Register District.

How do you define success?

If the resources are protected we have done our job. We work hard to maintain accuracy and preserve the Historic Area.

What is your most successful accomplishment to date?
I have been really lucky in my career, working on and advising at some amazing sites. I came to Colonial Williamsburg during the Coffeehouse project and was able to work on the Armoury, Market House, and now, the Bray School, First Baptist, the Magazine, and many others. We partnered with Preservation Virginia to stabilize the Jamestown church tower.
Before Williamsburg, I was at Drayton Hall in South Carolina, and before that Kenmore in Fredericksburg, Virginia. I have done international work as well in Izborsk, Russia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Jamaica. It is tough to choose one as my favorite, but I think Jamaica impacted me the most. I did extensive work in Trelawny Parish, Jamaica, where we taught young Jamaicans preservation trades and they then worked on historic houses where the owners could not afford to do repairs. The project had an incredible impact on individuals’ lives and the overall community.
How long have you lived/worked in the Historic Triangle?
16 years.

What is your favorite part of being in the Historic Triangle?

It is a great place to live. There is so much to do and great people. You have so many historic sites and venues to choose from. It is really magical and amazing. I tell my children all the time that they live where other people go on vacation.

What do you do for downtime/to relax?

We have three children that keep us very busy. Being with them is my favorite thing.

What is the next step in your journey?

Colonial Williamsburg was my dream job. I think the fun part about what I do is constantly trying to answer how and why. That is part of the fun and adventure. You never know where it is going to lead you.

Do you want to learn more about your community and the people who live and work in the Historic Triangle? We are looking for people with interesting jobs, super volunteers, or community leaders to showcase. Reach out to let us know if you (or someone you know) would like to be considered for Ten Questions.

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