Museum of Confederacy to split
It will divide artifacts among 3 sites; two are Chancellorsville, Appomattox
Wednesday, Sep 05, 2007
By JANET CAGGIANO
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
The Museum of the Confederacy has found a new home for the world's largest collection
of Civil War artifacts.
Make that homes.
Three Virginia localities will serve as a museum "system," replacing
the single museum that has stood at 12th and East Clay streets since 1976. Officials
yesterday announced two of those sites -- the Appomattox Court House National
Park and the Chancellorsville Battlefield Visitor Center near Fredericksburg.
The location of the third site is likely to be announced by the end of the
month. Other national battlefield sites in the state include Petersburg and
The museum headquarters, including the library and research center, collections
storage and administration, will remain in Richmond. The White House of the
Confederacy, the home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis during the Civil
War, will also stay put.
"If our mission is to use our artifacts to educate the public about the
Civil War and the Confederacy, man are we going to accomplish that so much better
because we are going to have more on view and more visitors," said Waite
Rawls, the museum's president and CEO. "We are taking the artifacts back
to where they were made famous."
Plans call for the construction of an 8,000-square-foot museum at each site,
with about 5,000 square feet of exhibit space. That adds up to 15,000 square
feet of exhibit space -- more than twice the space the museum has now. Each
museum will also house a gift shop, educational rooms and offices.
"The idea of combining artifacts with battlefields will bring new life
to both," said Jim Lighthizer, president of the Civil War Preservation
Trust. "It will provide visitors a glimpse into the stories of the war,
which is the most defining conflict in American history."
The project will cost about $15 million, Rawls said, or $5 million per site.
The museum will begin a capital campaign, and Rawls is hoping for local, state
and federal funding.
"In this case, we will be building one [museum] while raising money for
the second," he said. "We will move into them gradually so we can
spread it out logistically and financially."
The move won't come until 2011, the beginning of the sesquicentennial of the
American Civil War.
"After three years of hard work involving a state study commission, a
peer review study and a large number of volunteer experts, the board feels that
a system of museum sites is the best way to accomplish our central mission of
using artifacts to educate the public about the Civil War and the Confederacy,"
said Carlton Moffatt Jr., chairman of the museum's board of trustees. "The
prospect is very exciting."
The museum is relocating its collection to escape the sprawling medical campus
of Virginia Commonwealth University. Visitation has been falling for years,
from about 92,000 in the early 1990s to 44,000 in the last budget year.
"We are focused on taking our collection to the visitor, rather than trying
to get the visitor to come to us," Rawls said. "[These sites] hold
great war-time significance. They have strong visitation numbers and name recognition."
The May 1-5, 1863, Battle of Chancellorsville is known as Gen. Robert E. Lee's
greatest victory. The visitor center there contains exhibits, a 22-minute movie
and bookstore, walking trails and a 7-mile driving tour.
Chancellorsville, which attracts about 47,000 visitors a year, is one of four
Civil War battlefields near Fredericksburg run by the National Park Service.
The four battlefields draw about 1.8 million visitors a year.
The Appomattox Court House National Park brings in about 155,000 visitors each
year. The Civil War effectively ended at Appomattox on April, 9, 1865, when
Lee and Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant signed the surrender terms.
Each site, which will employ 10 to 15 people, will exhibit artifacts relevant
to that area. Appomattox, for example, will display Lee's surrender uniform
and sword, the clothes Jefferson Davis was wearing at the time of his capture
and some of the flags surrendered. The Chancellorsville site will showcase a
letter written by a dying soldier, a painting depicting the last meeting between
Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart's personal
"Our big asset is this unbelievable collection," Rawls said. "The
question has been how to get it to work for itself. Well, you get it in front
of the people. Now, we will be able to do that."
© 2007, Media General Inc
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