Fort Monroe Survey — need help!
 
Dear Confederate Heritage Friends,
 
Thank you to everyone who was able to attend the Interpretive Solutions Fort Monroe planning workshop last week.  We had good attendance with all of the daughters, sons and interested friends!  People came from far away.  Our message was definitely well expressed during the evening.  Also, thank you to everyone who responded to my e-mail.
 
As background information, the Fort Monroe FADA (FM FADA) is made up of 18 members from the City of Hampton, the General Assembly and the Virginia Governor’s appointees and cabinet members.  This committee relies on several subcommittees and consultants to make recommendations concerning the future of Fort Monroe.  Interpretive Solutions is one consultant who is charged with making recommendations as to what themes should be interpreted at Fort Monroe.
 
I was very disappointed with the way Interpretive Solutions, presented their suggested themes for the public’s opinion.  At the meeting, I learned that Interpretive Solutions is a consulting company from New Jersey, who prides itself on working with the National Park Service on many projects throughout the USA.  From what I’ve seen of their work, I’d call it revising history.
 
The consultant had several boards set up around the room with suggested themes.  Each visitor was given enough colored dots to make one vote on each board for a first and second choice.  This approach is a modification of a method used by consultants to guarantee the solution desired by the sponsor. 
 
Prior to the meeting, I had been assured by the consultants that Confederate history would be represented as a major part of the themes.  To my disappointment, I found that the major theme represented on the voting boards was the African-American and Contraband experience.  There was no reference to the Confederacy or to President Davis’ confinement.  The only mention of any Confederate was a single mention of Robert E. Lee’s tenure as an Engineer at Fort Monroe prior to the war.  But, there was one complete board totally dedicated to the African-Americans.
 
I, and several others, expressed our displeasure as to the lack of Confederate history on the theme boards.  In response, the consultants suggested that we write our ideas on post-it notes they supplied.  It was obvious that these post-it notes would not have any recognition, because the effort asked for votes, so each post-it would only represent one vote for a subject.  We arrived at the solution to write our themes directly onto the theme boards, and then others of same mind could also vote for these themes.
 
I have attached an example of one of the boards asking for suggested themes.  On this board, the War Between the States was totally ignored by the consultants.  When questioned, their comment was that it was included in the theme “Military History at the Fort” – which covers the total period of 1610 through 2009.  But, the theme board did include separate entries for Native Americans and African Americans.
 
As mentioned above, we wrote in “Confederate History” at the bottom of the board.  Note on my attachment, that Confederate History received 27 votes, far more than any other theme.  I have photographs of all of the boards showing the votes for each subject, including those written in by the public.
 
The FM FADA website (http://www.fmfada.com) has all of the boards that were at the meeting.  They are open for on-line voting until the end of this month.  Be aware though, that the voting at the meeting, and any on-line voting will not be the final word.  During their presentation the consultant made it clear that this is just the first step in the process, and they likely have plenty of outs to influence the final decisions.  It will be to our benefit though, to be able to refer to a preponderance of votes for Confederate history, particularly since the consultant left it out.
 
The process of the Interpretive Planners consultants will last for nine months.  As part of this process, there will be several meetings for representatives of Fort Monroe Stakeholders.  The Fort Monroe FADA has identified the UDC as a Stakeholder and I will be representing the UDC at all of the meetings.  However, I cannot do it alone.
 
I am convinced that, in the end, the consultant, Interpretative Solutions will present a conclusion to the FM FADA that their research indicates that the African American experience should be the main theme at Fort Monroe, and totally ignore the Confederate story. 
 
I converse regularly with legislators and other members of FM FADA.  If I am able to point to data that shows them that the public has overwhelmingly demanded that Confederate history be a part of the interpretations at Fort Monroe, they will have a hard time ignoring us.
 
Every month on the FM FADA website, http://www.fmfada.com, there will be a different survey that Interpretive Solutions is asking the public to answer.  This survey may not always specify the Confederate story, however, there will always be a box at the bottom of each section where you may write in other answers.
 
This month’s survey is the same that was used at the workshop.  Even if you attended the workshop, you may still answer the survey online.  Near the bottom of the first page of the FM FADA website, you will see a box titled, “Fort Monroe FADA – Town Hall Meeting”.  At the bottom of this box, you need to click on “Give us your feedback here”.   A page will appear that says “Themes, Stories, and Activities at Ft. Monroe”.  This is the survey.
 
There are 8 sections to the survey.  Below is a brief description of the sections and suggestions for possible answers to add to the box at the bottom that would help insure the Confederacy Theme.  Note, that if you do write a theme into the box, do not vote for any other choices in that section, as it will dilute your vote.
 
1. Themes at Fort Monroe – This section never mentions the War Between the States, much less the Confederacy.  If you agree, please write Confederacy in the box at the bottom of the section titled, “If there are themes missing, please write them here”.
 
2. Stories at Fort Monroe – This section mentions Robert E. Lee’s tenure as a Civil Engineer at Fort Monroe, but never mentions Jefferson Davis’ confinement as a story to be told.  Please add Jefferson Davis’ confinement story as your first choice in the box. It would be helpful to mark Robert E. Lee as your second choice and at the bottom in the box titled, “Is there an important military history story missing from the list?  If so, please add it here.”     If you would prefer, Robert E. Lee as your first choice, please indicate your preference that way.
 
3. More Stories at Fort Monroe – This entire section concerns only African Americans.  I would suggest not answering any of the printed themes.  A write-in, by the public at the meeting, which received 15 votes was, “General Butler using the Contraband Decision as a political ploy”.
 
4. What are Fort Monroe’s most significant periods?  – Please answer Civil War as your first choice.
 
5. Recreation at Fort Monroe – Please answer this section as you desire.  There are three items that might be of interest to you.  1.  “View a Civil War era re-enactment of a day at Fort Monroe” 2. “Participate in a Civil War re-enactment”.  I feel that the question, “Research the Civil War, African American, or military history” is too broad, and choosing it will give more credence to African American story.
 
6. Learning Labs at Fort Monroe – Please answer this as you please.
 
7. Fort Monroe has many stories to tell.  How would you prefer to experience them at the Fort? – Please answer this section as you please.
 
8. Do you have any additional comments?  Please add them here. – This is a box where you may add positive comments that would help insure that our Confederate heritage remains at Fort Monroe. It is particularly important to stress the following:
 
• One is that the Casemate Museum should be independent of the National Park Service.  The National Park Service should not control the Casemate Museum.
 
• The second is that you would like to have a satellite of the Museum of the Confederacy at Fort Monroe.
 
There must be an enormous request by the public for the Museum of the Confederacy to have a presence at Fort Monroe.  The representative of the National Trust has made strong objections, verbally and in writing, to the existence of the MOC on Fort Monroe.  I would be glad to send you his 17-page letter. Although The FM FADA realizes that the MOC belongs at Fort Monroe, and would be a good financial boon for the self-sustainability of Fort Monroe, they are being pressured by these forces to delete it. The public must override this effort to de-emphasize Confederate history.  It is extremely important!
 
I hope that you will recognize how important your action can be to helping assure that our Confederate history is correctly told at Fort Monroe.
 
Christine Gergely
UDC Liaison to Fort Monroe
gergely@visi.net