Confederacy sites cut hours, staffing in budget squeeze

By Katie Dodd
August 16, 2006

Officials for the Museum of the Confederacy and the Confederate White House in Richmond have cut the landmarks’ staff and hours of operation to save money.

The museum will be closed Wednesdays between Labor Day and Memorial Day and will lose about 10 percent of its staff through attrition. Also, no White House tours will be conducted in January and February.

Museum officials yesterday announced the changes, which are aimed at reducing budget costs.

"These are hard times for us, but visitors are still enjoying their experience here," said Megan Miller, the museum’s public relations manager. "We are working really hard to minimize the pain to donors and constituents."

Officials had expected a $700,000 grant from Virginia last month, but instead received a $50,000 stipend.

What’s more, museum visitors have been on the decline for years.

Located in the heart of the Confederacy’s capital, the museum is surrounded by construction and new buildings, and is practically hidden in the shadow of the Medical College of Virginia Commonwealth University.

"The museum is landlocked, surrounded by canyons of concrete and steel," said Delegate Bill Janis, Goochland Republican. "The magnitude of the construction has caused roads to be rerouted or closed, making it very difficult for anyone, especially a tourist, to even find the museum."

Mr. Janis served as the chief patron of a study commission that sought solutions for the museum’s financial problems.

One option includes moving the museum and the White House from their historic site.

"The building has become incompatible with its environment," Mr. Janis said. "The purpose of having the museum on this historical site has been obviated by construction. It cannot survive at its current location."

But moving the landmarks is not a universally popular option.

Robert Lamb, a former member of the museum board, is strongly opposed to the idea.

"Things are tough for the museum, but there are solutions to keeping it at the present site," Mr. Lamb said. "If people would get together to fix the dysfunctional street and parking systems, then they would be fine to stay where they are."

Open since 1896, the White House served as the residence of Confederate President Jefferson Davis during the Civil War. The museum was added onto it in 1976.

In addition to the staff and hour cuts, museum officials have decided to publish their quarterly magazine only three times a year and have discontinued publishing the annual academic journal.

Copyright 2006 The Washington Times

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