No Meeting With Sons of Confederate Veterans

As troubling as the news is coming out of the Museum of the Confederacy the thought that management would even consider meeting with representatives of the Sons of Confederate Veterans is mind-boggling.  I would rather see the museum close its doors permanently than hand over its rich collection of artifacts to a group that would use it to fashion a narrow and self-serving historical account.  I have not heard one word about what qualifies this organization to run a museum.  Does anyone really believe Frank Earnest when he says that "We [SCV] will take whatever steps necessary to maintain…the integrity of the Museum of the Confederacy."  If the SCV is serious about helping than they should take steps to raise funds and organize activities that will help the museum’s financial situation and site problems. 

I’ve stated numerous times on this blog just how much I value the MOC’s work as both a teacher and historian.  Their educational programs challenge our basic assumptions about the Confederacy and their collection has been used to create the best in Civil War exhibits.  Perhaps the SCV would like to get their hands on the museum as a way to challenge the new American Civil War Center at Tredegar, which they must find horrifying given its emphasis on the role of race and slavery as defining features of the war.

I do hope that these stories about a possible meeting with the SCV turn out to be false. 


9 comments… add one
  • John Maass Mar 13, 2007 @ 9:49

    DSF’s biog of Lee is 4 volumes, I believe. JM

  • Kevin Levin Mar 5, 2007 @ 8:59

    Mannie, — Not to worry as I was not interpreting your comments as “NPS policy,” but as someone with a background in public history.

  • Mannie Gentile Mar 4, 2007 @ 20:12


    I go to some lengths to keep my comments from being mistaken as NPS policy. That could put me in a difficult position. Perhaps I’ve not been as successful as I’d hoped in separating the two realms.

    I’d love to continue this dialogue, but as a museum consultant and not as someone in our country’s service.

    If you’d like, give me a ring at

    Best wishes


  • Kevin Levin Mar 3, 2007 @ 5:42

    Mannie, — I agree with you entirely that the MOC should be much more involved with local schools and have said so at least once before on this blog. The new museum at Tredegar seems to have made this an important component of its outreach and will no doubt work to share a sophisticated understanding of what the war was about.

    Your second point has got me thinking. First, what are the “current trends in visitor needs”? As someone who works for the NPS you are perhaps in a better position to answer that question. Second, what is the balance between what visitors expect and the responsibility of museums to promote what it believes is relevant? I am dealing with that question with my work at Monticello designing an exhibit that will allow visitors to explore the complexity of Jefferson’s ideas.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  • Manuel Gentile Mar 2, 2007 @ 22:05

    Here’s a thing.

    I was a museum educator for 18 years, including twelve as the curator of education at the public museum of Grand Rapids (Michigan) the second oldest publicly funded museum in the United States. A large part of my job was keep the message of museum exhibits relevant and of some value to the schools. Twice, I took museum travel/study groups to the MOC, and both times the comments from the participants were the same:

    “What is the message here?” and “I felt like a lab rat in a maze”.

    I think a large part of the MOCs dilemma is simply that it hasn’t kept up with current trends in visitor needs or essentially linked with the local public school curriculum. The times may have passed it by, which is perhaps, why the sons of the confederacy think that they are the legal heirs of the joint.

    The obsolete seeking out the obsolete.


  • Kevin Levin Mar 1, 2007 @ 21:26

    Andrew, — Thanks for taking the time to comment. I hope to hear more from you as I am very interested in the perspective of someone working in public history.

  • Andrew Duppstadt Mar 1, 2007 @ 20:05

    You make a lot of excellent points in the running debate over the future of the Museum of the Confederacy. I have been following the trials and tribulations of the museum for the past few years and have a strong personal interest, both as a historian and as a living history practitioner. I am the Assistant Curator of Education for the NC Division of State Historic Sites, as well as belonging to a living history group (notice I don’t say “reenactment” unit) that has done educational programs at the MOC for the past two years. We love the museum and really hate to see the pressures they have had to endure. All I can say is that I hope it all turns out for the best.

    I enjoy your blog, though I just found it a few weeks ago. I’ll certainly keep reading!

  • Kevin Levin Mar 1, 2007 @ 11:55

    You make an excellent point Brooks that I should have stated clearly in my post. The idea that interest on the part of the SCV involves anything less than getting rid of Waite Rawls and others is ludicrous. Local SCV chapters have stated openly how they feel about the direction of the MOC under Rawls’s direction.

  • Brooks Simpson Mar 1, 2007 @ 11:41

    Given how some SCV people feel about Waite Rawls, one can just imagine the battling that would go on if the SCV, itself divided about what it does and should do, took over this museum.

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