Commemorating Richmond’s Fall and Liberation

What I wouldn’t give to be in Richmond, Virginia this coming week for the 150th anniversary of the city’s fall and liberation. There are a wide range of events planned by the National Park Service and a host of other organizations. It’s a fitting way to end the sesquicentennial in Virginia given its track record over the past few years. No state has done more nor has devoted more resources to the sesquicentennial.

In the Richmond Times-Dispatch this weekend Katherine Calos interviewed a number of people involved in sesquicentennial planning throughout Virginia and Richmond specifically. Their thoughts reflect the many differences between the centennial and sesquicentennial and the continued challenges associated with its interpretation and commemoration. Continue reading “Commemorating Richmond’s Fall and Liberation”

American Civil War Museum Taking Shape

American Civil War CenterWe now have an artist’s rendering of what the new American Civil War Museum will look like along the James River in Richmond, Virginia. The new building is the culmination of the recent merger between the Museum of the Confederacy and American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar. Continue reading “American Civil War Museum Taking Shape”

What It Comes Down To For Waite Rawls

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.”

Our Civil War’s “Sacred Cows”

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.