Sunday, November 17, 2013

Museum of the Confederacy and The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar to Join Together

This was in my email this morning, despite prior claims to the contrary. So far it appears that reaction has been pretty well in the concerned to negative realm. I can certainly understand that. There are times where I think museums have gone too far into the "interpretive" and not in showing artifacts. Any time there is to be large amounts of "interpretive" efforts, you are going to offend a large amount of people. Some neo-Confederates who still can't accept that slavery was ultimately the largest cause of the Civil War, and in some ways still fight the war to this day, will no doubt be against this merger. I bristle at words like storage and wonder will the White House of the Confederacy continue to exist despite what the press release says. In addition  the new museum, which has yet to be named (a new name is supposed to be announced in January 2014), will have Co-CEOs. That seems unlikely to be a long term, workable solution. A management hierarchy will need to be established quickly in order for this to be a viable entity. A clear vision must quickly be adopted to gather support from members of both institutions.
The bottom line, so to speak, is I have little doubt this is a financial decision meant to try and save both institutions. Fund raising continues to be an issue for almost all non-profit institutions. There are a limited amount of Civil War enthusiasts and they have a limited amount of money. It will be interesting to see how this merger affects fund raising. I am a member of the MOC but not the ACWC. Perhaps the combined membership numbers will allow for attracting larger grants, which can be a good thing if put to good use.
At this point it is too early to condemn or praise this merger. There is little doubt however that it will be closely watched and that watchdogs on both sides, neo-Confederate and politically correct, will jump on any opportunity to put this new entity down. That is unfortunate but it is the world we live in. For now, I have to wish them the best and hope that this is a museum that anybody interested in the Civil War would be proud to visit, whenever it might open.
To the Members of the Museum of the Confederacy,
For 123 years, the Confederate Memorial Literary Society has assembled, protected, and interpreted the most important collection of artifacts pertaining to the Confederacy in the world.  In the 1890s, the CMLS reached out to aging veterans and their families, humbly asking them to share their artifacts from the War before they were lost to history. In the 1970s, the Museum building in Richmond was constructed to better house those artifacts, and during the 1980s, the White House of the Confederacy was restored to the splendor enjoyed by Jefferson Davis and his family. In the 1990s we began a series of groundbreaking exhibits, and we opened our second site at Appomattox last year. Now, the CMLS is taking the next step in our long history of education and preservation.
The largest priority of the Museum of the Confederacy has always been the protection of its incredible collection. Artifacts like those that belonged to Stonewall Jackson, J.E.B. Stuart, Robert E. Lee, and many others need to be properly preserved for generations to come.  However, the MOC building in Richmond is nearly 40 years old, and the Confederate Memorial Literary Society must take bold steps to ensure the safety of these artifacts. Space is needed to expand and add interactive components to their display and to give visitors better accessibility to living history demonstrations.

This morning, we announced that the Museum of the Confederacy is joining forces with the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar to make Richmond the “foremost Civil War destination in the United States.” The $30 million project, of which $20 million has been committed, will result in the construction of a brand new museum building at the historic Tredegar Iron Works site. This undertaking will put the whole institution on a much firmer financial foundation. The project will span 4-5 years, and the current museum in Richmond will remain open to the public until the new galleries are ready.
The new museum will provide better storage for the collection, improved displays, and a larger and better venue for hosting educational programs. At the same time, the White House of the Confederacy will be enhanced with new exhibits in time for its 200th birthday in 2018. The White House will continue to operate as normal, as will the Museum of the Confederacy-Appomattox.

We have retained Edelman Berland, an independent market research firm, to conduct a brief survey of our members and visitors to help us better understand how we can meet your needs. Our goal is to gather feedback that we can use to continually improve our exhibits, programs, and activities. Look for an email invitation in the next week. The survey should take no more than 10 minutes to complete, and your responses will be kept confidential.               

This is an exciting time for the Museum of the Confederacy and the American Civil War Center. We rely on your support to help us see this project through. Caring for the collection is our biggest concern. This new venture will ensure that the artifacts of the Confederacy are available for future generations just as they have been since 1890.

For more information, a copy of the press release, or for answers to questions you may have, click here.
I am your most obedient servant,
S. Waite Rawls III
President and CEO

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