As many of you know, last year Richmond’s Museum of the Confederacy and American Civil War Center decided to join forces and form one museum. Today the American Civil War Museum moved one step closer to becoming a reality by unveiling its new logo. A brief history of the logo can be found here.
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.”
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
Thanks to the staff at the American Civil War Center at Tredegar as well as the University of Richmond for hosting what was by any measure a first-rate conference. Special thanks go out to Mark Howell who organized the sessions and for inviting me to take part in the conference. It was a true honor to be included in such a fine list of Lincoln scholars and Southern historians. I am not going to try to summarize the entire conference in one post; instead, I am going to take the time to think about some of the things I heard and offer reflections in the coming weeks. I do hope, however, to offer a summary of Ed Ayers’s keynote address, which included a new digital project that Ayers and others are now working on at the University of Richmond.
The most enjoyable parts of these gatherings is the opportunity to interact with talented scholars. For me it was a chance to finally meet James McPherson. Although I only spoke with him briefly it was nice to shake the hand of a man whose scholarship helped to fuel my interest in the subject and continues to frame many of the questions that drive my own research. I can explain to you just how important his body of scholarship is to the field, but you don’t really get a feel for it until you attend one of these conferences. Throughout the weekend speakers acknowledged McPherson’s role in shaping their own thinking on various topics as well as his generosity and encouragement. You also get a sense of just how many historians were trained by McPherson and who went on to respectable careers in their own right. I also spent time talking with historian and fellow blogger, Brian Dirck. Brian is a hell of a nice guy and his presentation was particularly interesting and one that I will comment on at some point soon. Sorry for sounding a bit over the top, but some people get excited about sports personalities while others get excited about historians.
In addition to meeting McPherson I had a wonderful time talking with Elizabeth Brown Pryor about her recent biography of Lee as well as the range of responses to it. I also enjoyed chatting with Frank Milligan, who is the director of the Lincoln Cottage in Silver Spring, Maryland and look forward to the opportunity to work with teachers on the cottage grounds. On Friday evening I had a wonderful dinner with Frank Milligan, Michael Burlingame, Manisha Sinha, and Leslie Rowland.
My teaching session yesterday morning went well. We had a small group of educators and we spent the time talking about how we go about teaching Lincoln and the difficulties involved in moving beyond some of our own biases that may have been learned early on in our own lives. It was a nice change of pace from the conference proceedings and gave me a great deal to think about in terms of my own teaching. Thanks to everyone who attended.
On a different note, I noticed that the average number of visitors per day has topped 1,000. I don’t know what this means relative to other Civil War/history blogs; perhaps I am being blown out of the water in this regard. Still, it seems fitting to use it as an excuse to thank each and every one of you for making Civil War Memory part of your daily routine.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans is still trying to find a home for their statue of Jefferson Davis and Jim Limber. The statue, which cost $100,000, was originally planned for the grounds at Tredegar in Richmond next to the statue of Lincoln and his son Tad. The American Civil War Museum accepted the statue, but made no promises as to whether it would be displayed and how. Apparently, the SCV doesn’t know the first thing about how museums operate. Now they are offering the statue to the state of Mississippi. Good luck boys, but in this political climate my guess is that you don’t have a chance. My offer still stands to use it in my classroom as an interpretive piece to help my students better understand the continued influence of the Lost Cause. What do you say? We will take very good care of it.
Between the statue, their big ass Confederate flags flying over Southern highways, and their endorsement of a NASCAR driver, the SCV has demonstrated their commitment to wasting money and their inability to take Southern heritage seriously.