- The Washington Times - Friday, June 19, 2009

RICHMOND | The place where the Civil War came to an end is where the Museum of the Confederacy intends to begin sharing what it calls the world’s most extensive collection of Confederate artifacts.

While the sour economy has slowed fundraising, the museum’s executive director said he is committed to creating a statewide museum system at historically significant locations, starting in central Virginia where Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant on Easter Sunday 1865.

“We are very focused on Appomattox, and Fredericksburg and Fort Monroe will come later,” S. Waite Rawls III said Thursday. “We can’t do them all at once.”

Located next to the former Confederate White House, the museum has felt the pinch of an ever-expanding downtown Richmond landscape, where a hospital complex towers over the site. The museum has seen visits decline through the years, though they are currently keeping pace with last year’s 48,376 visitors.

“We’ve got a location that’s a bad location, that is inaccessible to many people,” Mr. Rawls said. The creation of three museum sites will make the vast collection available to many more people and generate more revenue, he said.

“We’ve got a great collection,” Mr. Rawls said. “More people can see it. More people can learn from it.”

The creation of three display sites seemed to stumble this week when Mr. Rawls went to Appomattox to discuss the proposed $8 million project and his request to meet privately with officials was declined. County officials did not immediately return messages left by the Associated Press.

The Appomattox visit prompted wonderment among officials in the Fredericksburg area about the future of a museum site there, according to the Free Lance-Star newspaper.

Mr. Rawls shrugged off the week, noting the museum system plan can go “as fast or as slow as the fundraising.” At present, he said, “The fundraising is slower than we anticipated.”

The museum has not selected a possible location in the Fredericksburg area, but Fort Monroe seems a solid prospect in Hampton Roads. The 570-acre base sits on a historic peninsula in Hampton, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis was jailed there after the Civil War.

An authority is reviewing the moated fort’s future use once the military leaves in 2011.

The executive director of the authority, Bill Armbruster, said discussions with the Museum of the Confederacy involve a museum complex. He said the Confederacy museum and its collection, which includes Davis’ cell door from Fort Monroe, would be a good fit.

“They have a remarkable collection in terms of artifacts,” he said.

Only a small portion of the museum’s collection of battle flags, saddles and military items are on display at any one time. The Richmond museum will remain open even as the other sites are created.

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