Major Cuts at Museum of the Confederacy

This morning the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports major cuts at the Museum of the Confederacy.  They include the following:

  • Museum will be closed on Wednesdays between Labor Day and Memorial Day
  • White House will be closed to public tours during the months of January and February
  • Salaries of its full-time employees have been frozen
  • Quarterly magazine will be published three times a year while the annual issue has been "axed"
  • All new exhibits will be postponed indefinitely ("Virginians in the Confederacy" will proceed as it is privately funded)

One wonders what it will take to get the Museum back on its feet.  Each of us can do our part by signing up for an annual membership.  This is a valuable resource for those of us who have a serious interest in the Civil War and the history of the South.  The Museum is in no way a mouthpiece for neo-Confederate organizations.  Their exhibits are first-rate and it houses some of the most important artifacts from American history. 

5 comments… add one

  • Tom Aug 15, 2006

    Membership is also fairly inexpensive – a person not living in the Richmond area can get it as cheap as $30 – a great price for any museum. It is also less than most Civil War books that I have bought over the last year, so last month I bought one less book so that instead I could send in a membership application for the MOC.

    To learn more about membership in The Museum of the Confederacy, go to http://www.moc.org/site/PageServer?pagename=md_mem_main

    To learn more about donating to The Museum of the Confederacy, go to http://www.moc.org/site/PageServer?pagename=md_af_main

  • Hiram Hover Aug 15, 2006

    Kevin – Thanks for the update. I have to say, tho, that I recently visited the Museum of the Confederacy for the first time and came away disappointed. I found the museum’s public exhibits, at least, pretty sparse and uninformative, consisting of little more than flags, clothing, and similar artifacts (I went with the little Hovers, and so I’ll allow that maybe there was more that I missed). The White House tour emphasized material culture—which wasn’t surprising—but conveyed little of substance about Davis as president of the Confederacy, which was also disappointing.

    I do think that museum officials have a legitimate complaint in how they’ve been encroached on by the hospital expansion and construction, which make access difficult and even unpleasant. And I’ll allow that there may be valuable materials in the museum’s research collections that need to remain accessible—I haven’t done research there myself. But as a public history resource, it’s not living up to its potential—to put it charitably.

  • Kevin Levin Aug 15, 2006

    Hiram, — I actually agree with you in re: the permanent display and the White House tour. They are not exceptionally strong in terms of interpretation. The museum is strongest when it produces more specialized exhibits and that has much to do with the work of John and Ruth Ann Coski who work in the museum’s library.

  • Michael Aubrecht Aug 15, 2006

    Kevin. Thank you for voicing your support for the MOC!

    I was just there 2 weekends ago and this situation is most disturbing. As you know, the future of the museum has been a recurring question in our area and the most recent news is anything but promising. According to a recent article in the RTD, “After receiving only $50,000 of the $700,000 it requested from the state legislature, the financially struggling Museum of the Confederacy is going to have to do something to stay afloat. The question is what? In the absence of state support, the alternatives could be extremely painful, including the sale of part of the collection or the curtailment of critical programs and shortened hours of visitation.”

    Yes, they did say ‘SELL’ part of their collection. It went on to state “The Museum of the Confederacy attributes its declining visitor numbers to the recent growth of VCU Medical Center. Because of it, the board led a public campaign seeking to move the 188-year-old White House of the Confederacy to a more accessible location.” And the changes you site above are downright deplorable. Full-time salaries frozen?! Where are the Teamsters when you need them? or maybe some re-enactors w/ live ammo. :)

    Sadly, the urban sprawl that has suffocated the immediate blocks around the museum and White House continues to grow by leaps and bounds. The number of construction sites and tower cranes that dot the landscape is astounding and the total disregard for any “breathing space” in the historical district around Clay Street is deplorable. Now, I understand that MCV Hospital does groundbreaking, lifesaving work and I appreciate its contributions to the community. I just don’t dig its location and apparent, infinite expansion. Regardless, The Museum of the Confederacy (and White House) are national treasures and NEED to be protected.

    In regards to the exhibits being sparse. I can see where you are coming from, but I say its quality – not quantity – as they have one of the largest collections of Lee and Stuart’s items (also they are second w/ Jackson’s stuff only to VMI).

    Anyway – thanks for posting that Kevin. They need all the help they can get

  • Kevin Levin Aug 15, 2006

    Your welcome Michael. I’ve supported for some time the idea of moving the MOC given these more recent difficulties regarding finances and space. Yes, the disregard for the historical district is unfortunate. I want to see the numbers of visitors increase and the only way that is going to happen is if the MOC and the White House moves to a new location. As for the hospital it is hard for me to be critical. The Richmond area is exploding in leaps and bounds just as you mentioned, but in the end the area’s medical facilities must be able to offer sufficient medical care. From this perspective little else matters to me.

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