- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Museum of the Confederacy will move from its location near Virginia Commonwealth University in downtown Richmond, where it is shrouded by construction, new buildings and VCU’s Medical College.

S. Waite Rawls III, the museum’s executive director, said the museum will vacate its spot at 1201 E. Clay St. but that the White House of the Confederacy will remain where it is.

A new site for the museum has not been determined. An independent peer-review panel recommended the move, which Mr. Rawls said he hopes will be completed by 2011.

“The recommendations are clearly intended to get the revenue higher,” Mr. Rawls said. “We want to get back to a balanced budget.”

Years of declining visits and revenue had forced museum officials to cut staff, programs and operation hours.

Officials had expected to receive a $700,000 grant from Virginia in July, but instead received a $50,000 stipend.

The cuts in staff and hours helped reduce the museum’s fiscal 2007 budget deficit — which was approaching $700,000 — to $350,000.

The number of museum visitors has fallen steadily since its peak in 1991, when about 91,000 people visited the facility, Mr. Rawls said. About 51,500 people a year currently visit the site.

The review panel recommended that the White House not be moved with the museum.

Moving the building — which was built in 1818 — would cause the structure to lose its place on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register.

The Confederate White House served as the residence of Confederate President Jefferson Davis during the Civil War. The museum was added in 1976.

The White House was also Davis’ executive office, where notable guests included Confederate Gens. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson and Robert E. Lee.

“We are stewards of a public trust,” Mr. Rawls said. “The public consensus was that it shouldn’t be moved, and we listened.”

Brag Bowling, a spokesman for the Virginia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said the organization was pleased that officials have backed away from talk about moving the White House.

“That was our dog in the fight,” Mr. Bowling said. “But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the museum’s main problem is fundraising.”

Mr. Bowling said he doesn’t oppose a relocation of the museum, though he doubts the move will rectify its budgetary woes.

“I don’t think the problem is location,” he said. “The Valentine Museum is in the same general area, on the same street, and it’s doing fine.”

Meanwhile, the Museum of the Confederacy will close on Wednesdays, historically its lightest day for visits. The White House will be closed to public tours for two months starting in January.

Museum officials will publish their magazine three rather than four times a year and will discontinue publication of the annual academic journal.

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