- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 22, 2007

RICHMOND — The Museum of the Confederacy, which has been considering spreading the bulk of the world’s largest collection of Civil War artifacts among three new locations, has proposed that one branch be sited at Fort Monroe after the Army departs in 2011.

Museum president and CEO S. Waite Rawls III presented the museum’s proposal to the Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority this week. The authority is charged with designing the future of the Hampton, Va., fort after the Army leaves as part of the Base Realignment and Closure plan.

Mr. Rawls said yesterday that Fort Monroe was selected as a potential site because of its historical connection to the Civil War: Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee supervised construction of the fort and Confederate President Jefferson Davis was a prisoner there. The site also was selected for its potential as a tourist destination after the Army departs, and because it is located in a different region than the other two possible sites, broadening the museum’s reach.

Fort Monroe already is welcoming nearly as many Civil War history buffs as Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy, Mr. Rawls said. That’s despite Army restrictions that make access to the fort difficult.

The Richmond museum only has enough space to display 10 percent of its collection, Mr. Rawls said. The expansion, estimated to cost between $15 million and $17 million, will ensure more of the items are available for public viewing, he said.

“The idea is to expand to reach a broader audience,” Mr. Rawls said.

The other two possible sites, announced earlier this month, are the Appomattox Court House National Park and the Chancellorsville Battlefield Visitor Center near Fredericksburg, Va. The museum hopes those two branches could be opened by the Civil War’s sesquicentennial in 2011, followed by the Fort Monroe location at an undetermined date. The museum would keep its offices, artifact storage, library and research center in its Richmond location for at least five years, Mr. Rawls said.

A sharp drop in visitors to the museum’s current location triggered the decision to branch out, Mr. Rawls said. Visitation has fallen from about 92,000 in the early 1990s to 44,000 last year.

The drop comes despite increased attendance at other Civil War sites, said Mr. Rawls, who attributes the museum’s lagging attendance to encroaching development of nearby Virginia Commonwealth University’s medical campus.

Before any decisions can be made on the site, the authority plans to organize a symposium of Civil War specialists to determine what the central theme of the museum would be, ensure it is historically accurate and gather public input.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide