- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 4, 2007

RICHMOND — The Museum of the Confederacy may need more visitors, but it has plenty of suitors.

More than a dozen sites — including some outside Virginia — have contacted museum officials this year with hopes of enticing the trove of Civil War history to their town.

“We have been swamped with inquiries from all over the state,” said S. Waite Rawls III, the museum’s president and chief executive officer.

Mr. Rawls declined to identify the bidders, but said he hopes to begin reviewing proposals by April 15.

Museum officials announced in October they were seeking a new home for the world’s largest Civil War collection, to reverse the decline in attendance and to escape the steady expansion of the medical campus of Virginia Commonwealth University.

The adjacent White House of the Confederacy will remain at 12th and East Clay streets, where it has stood since 1818.

The historic Rockbridge County Courthouse complex, in Lexington, is among the potential sites that museum officials are touring. Like officials at other interested sites, those in Lexington will receive a request for a proposal.

The document spells out what the museum is looking for in a new home: a building with about 60,000 square feet, and about half of the space meeting museum-quality environmental and security standards. New construction is preferred and would cost about $20 million.

Other requirements include convenient dining options, parking to accommodate more than 150 cars and easy road access. The site also should have other historic attractions nearby.

“Our preference would be to stay in Richmond,” Mr. Rawls said. “Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy, it was the epicenter of the whole war, the collection was put together here and it’s been here for 117 years.”

One proposal would keep the museum in Richmond.

The Virginia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans has proposed taking over management of the museum. Brag Bowling said his group would focus exhibits and events on the South, instead of trying to be “politically correct.”

“They are trying to appeal to the mainstream,” he said. “That’s not what the museum is about. It was set up to be a shrine to the Confederacy.”

Museum officials have said they might drop the word “Confederacy” if they move.

Should the museum remain in Richmond and keep its name, Mr. Bowling said he would no longer see a need for his group to pursue a takeover.

“The museum is a treasure-trove of history,” he said. “It should be a piece of cake to promote and raise money for.”

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