Richmond Museums Explore Collaboration;
No Talk Of A Merger
By Scott C. Boyd
(September 2013 Civil War News)

RICHMOND, Va. – Rumors that the Museum of the Confederacy (MOC) will merge with two other Richmond-area museums — the Virginia Historical Society (VHS) and the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar (ACWC) — are false, according to MOC President and CEO S. Waite Rawls III.

“Words are important,” he said. “The difference between the words ‘merger,’ ‘subsume’ and ‘collaborate’ are huge. You see people who don’t have any factual information using words that are intentionally provocative.”

Rawls said, “Collaboration is a widely-encompassing term, and that’s the nature of the discussions.”

“The major goal is to make Richmond the premier destination for anybody interested in the Civil War,” Rawls said.

VHS Senior Officer for Public Relations and Marketing, Jennifer M. Guild, denied the rumors as well. “The Virginia Historical Society does not have any intention to merge with any other organization,” she said.

ACWC President Christy Coleman said in an email to Civil War News, which requested an interview, “I understand that there is interest but I think it is really premature.”

The rumors apparently first surfaced July 26 on the Internet in the Free North Carolina blog that reported without attribution that the MOC would merge with the VHS and ACWC.

Further, the blog claimed that the name “Museum of the Confederacy” would cease to exist and that it was a “takeover” and “another way to reconstruct the South and hide the true history of our ancestors.”

On July 30, Sons of Confederate Veterans Commander-in-Chief Michael Givens issued a statement expressing concern.

“If rumored changes come to pass the MOC’s collection as well as the historic White House of the Confederacy which it owns and manages, may simply cease to exist….

“Right now, some in the MOC leadership have cooked up a plan to distribute the MOC’s incredible collection among several different Richmond-area groups,” Givens wrote.

Rawls said that the three institutions in question “have dealt with each other a lot for a long time.”

“For the last 100 years, the stuff going back and forth between us and the VHS is amazing,” Rawls said.

Serious researchers go between the VHS and MOC, as do genealogists. The MOC has loaned many artifacts to the VHS for its exhibitions, including those which have traveled across the country, in the exhibits “An American Turning Point” and “Lee and Grant.”

“Tredegar – it’s a fabulous site. Very accessible,” Rawls said. “There’s a natural partnership they already have with the National Park Service (NPS).”

Rawls said the MOC and NPS collaborate a lot, but could do even more.

While the Richmond-area battlefields have improved greatly over the past 10 years by expanding the number of preserved battlefield acres, they will never be able to compete in the public’s mind with a place like Gettysburg, Rawls said.

“What Richmond has got that nobody can compete with is museum experiences, because all the stuff is here.”

However, Rawls said, visitors have a “fractured experience” because of all the different Civil War-related locations to see in the area as well as the three separate major museums in the city associated with the war.

“We’re in fairly serious discussions of what more we can do,” Rawls said. “At the midpoint of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, we thought we should have done more. There’s no reason not to do more, from a collaboration point of view.”

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