Back in November Waite Rawls and Christy Coleman announced a planned merger between Richmond’s Museum of the Confederacy and American Civil War Center. In an interview with Civil War News Rawls discussed what it means for the MOC and alluded to some of the controversy surrounding the decision:
“Will all our members support what we do in the future? No,” Rawls said. “Will some object? Yes.” “Will many more think it is great? Yes.” Rawls continued, “We have 5,000 members. My purpose as an entity is not to satisfy the least common denominator, but to do what is the best long-term good for the entirety. That’s what the CWH board will do.” “For the folks who say, ‘We wish you were only Confederate,’ we have bigger sights in mind,” he said. “We think we can do a better job educating people about the Confederacy if we tell the whole story of the Civil War.”
Using the analogy of preserving a Civil War battlefield, Rawls asked rhetorically, “How good a job would we do if we only preserved the Confederate half of it?” Noting that heritage groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy have a different purpose than a museum, Rawls said, “Their mission is to honor their ancestors. Our mission is to use this collection to educate the public.” He acknowledged, “The heritage groups would like us to be a heritage group, but we’re not.” “People who walk in the front door may not know which century [the Civil War] happened in,” according to Rawls. “Their ancestor may have fought in a civil war in Ireland or Thailand.” He mentioned a Japanese-American man interviewed on PBS who said he didn’t understand America until he watched the Ken Burns Civil War series. “That’s a powerful thing. I want to influence people like that. That’s what this institution is for.”
Yesterday I learned that Scott Hartwig, Supervisory Historian at Gettysburg National Military Park, will retire from the National Park Service at the end of this week. Unfortunately, I only had the opportunity to chat with Scott in person on a few occasions over the past few years. On the other hand, few NPS historians have taught me more about a broad range of topics related to public history and the challenges related to interpreting our nation’s Civil War battlefields. Scott’s list of accomplishments is extensive, from his most recent study of the Antietam Campaign to his work on developing interpretation and exhibits at Gettysburg’s new Visitor Center.
He is a talented historian, educator, and most importantly, a trusted custodian of some of our nation’s most significant treasures. His impact at Gettysburg and elsewhere will surely be felt for decades to come.
I trust that Scott won’t stray too far from the battlefield and a public that values his voice. Hopefully, retirement will give him the time to focus on research and new ways to engage the general public’s appetite for good history. No doubt, he deserves it.
I know I speak for everyone when I say thank you for all that you’ve done on behalf of the American people.
Thought I would take the opportunity to share this announcement given that the deadline is fast approaching. This is an award that I am chairing so do me a favor and please pass it along. Of course, let me know if you have any questions. Thanks.
The Society of Civil War Historians solicits nominations for the $5000 Award for Excellence in Public History. The award recognizes an outstanding public history project completed and made available to the public in 2012 or 2013 that enhances public awareness and understanding of the Civil War era, including the events leading to the war and its direct consequences. Continue reading
Most people here know that I am a big fan of American Civil War Center Director Christy Coleman. She is a passionate advocate for Civil War history and the city of Richmond. More importantly, Christy is an advocate for the healing power of history and its potential to bring communities closer together. The recent news that Christy and Waite Rawls of the Museum of the Confederacy are joining forces to open a new Civil War museum in the city means that we will be hearing much more from her in the coming months.
This is a talk that Christy gave back in September as part of a local TED talk in Richmond. The video was made available on YouTube yesterday. Enjoy.
Rumors of a merger between the two museums have been in the air for the past few months, but today it’s official. The Museum of the Confederacy and American Civil War Center will join forces to create one new museum on the grounds at Tredegar, along the James River. No one who has followed the problems plaguing the MOC over the past few years will be surprised by this decision. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Christy Coleman and Waite Rawls as public historians and as caretakers of Richmond’s rich Civil War past. With the help of individuals like Ed Ayers and others, Richmond is guaranteed a respectable and attractive new addition to its museum landscape. Continue reading