Many of you no doubt have already read that the Museum of the Confederacy (MOC) will be looking to move in the next few years. The plans also involve keeping the White House of the Confederacy in its present location. From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
The Museum and White House of the Confederacy, which maintains the world’s most comprehensive collections of Confederate artifacts, manuscripts and photographs, has been losing visitors and income for years as the continued development of VCU has nearly swallowed its small campus. Since the early 1990s, annual visitation has dropped from 92,000 to about 51,500. The museum’s deficit is expected to reach $700,000 this year.
In response to its financial woes, the institution cut its operating hours last month. The museum is now closed on Wednesdays from Labor Day to Memorial Day, and the White House will be closed for public tours in January and February.
Anyone who has visited the MOC in the past few years has put up with having to deal with the traffic and parking in the middle of VCU’s medical facilities. As I’ve said all along, moving the MOC is really the only possible solution. What that means for the White House remains to be seen.
As much as the gradual decline in visitation can be attributed to the MOC’s location there may be other factors involved. The sharp increase in the number of public controversies involving the Confederate flag has perhaps alienated a certain number. There may be the perception that a visit to the MOC is some kind of public statement in support of the flag.
I pointed out in my review of the new American Civil War Museum at Tredegar that their focus on slavery and a more sophisticated overall interpretation may in the end alienate certain groups who are interested either in a heavy dose of the military and/or an overall sanitized interpretation of the war. One of the things that continues to strike me is the almost complete absence of support for the MOC from SCV organizations and other Southern Heritage groups. No fund-raisers and as far as I can tell and no literature to inform the public about the Museum’s dire situation. So, how should we explain this? Not too long ago I commented on a news story involving the Edmund Ruffin Fire Eaters Camp (SCV) who called for the removal of Waite Rawls who is currently the Executive Director of the MOC. I can only conclude from this that there is a perception out there among heritage groups that the MOC’s interpretation/mission has moved too far from the outlines of the Lost Cause.
As a historian who concentrates on memory and the South I couldn’t be more pleased with their recent exhibits and overall push to bring a more mature interpretation of the Confederacy and the South to the general public. A final thought: Perhaps as the staff prepares for this important move they should also think about changing the name of the museum.