Mr. Rawls said the buildings are “great national treasures” that attract visitors from around the globe.
“Unfortunately, they are located in the path of the expansion of a very successful urban hospital,” he said, noting that in 20 years “we will be completely encircled and it will be significantly worse.”
The museum board of trustees is considering three options: to stay put at 12th and Clay streets in Richmond, to move the museum and the White House to another spot in the city or to move only the museum. Board members are expected to make a decision this year.
Brag Bowling, a spokesman for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said he worries that relocating the museum could force officials to water down its message by including all Civil War history.
“The museum must remember their historical beginning in 1896 — they are a museum to show off the Confederacy and they should not be drawn into any politically correct stuff,” he said. “They lose everything if they become politically correct by becoming a Civil War museum or something. Its uniqueness is gone if they go the other way.”
Mr. Bowling said he would oppose the relocation of the White House. “Once it is moved from its original location, I think it loses a lot,” he said.
However, he acknowledged that something must be done to improve attendance at the museum. “They are stuck down there in the middle of a construction project,” he said. “Finding the museum isn’t easy.”
Mr. Bowling suggested that the museum advertise and post signs directing visitors to the landmark. He said the declining attendance does not signal a downward trend in those interested in the Civil War.
“People all over the world are interested in the Confederacy,” he said. “I think interest in the Civil War is probably as high as it has ever been.”