Museum of the Confederacy Considers Move To Lexington: Are You Kidding Me?

I find it almost impossible to believe that officials at Richmond’s Museum of the Confederacy are considering a move to Lexington in the Shenandoah Valley.  Most of you are no doubt familiar with the MOC’s financial problems and the drop in the number of visitors owing to the expansion of the VCU Hospital.  Apart from considerations of moving the museum across town and maintaining the present location of the White House of the Confederacy this is the first I’ve heard about moving shop across state. 

Now before I offend the good citizens of Lexington let me say that I think their city is a wonderful place to visit and their Civil War history is clearly a rich one.  That said, I don’t see any future for the MOC in Lexington – might as well place the museum on Mars.  Yes, Lee and Jackson are both buried there, but barring the possibility of the two being resurrected to greet the supposed throngs of visitors I don’t see how their burial locations along with the history of the two schools can lay claim to being a sufficient reason for a move.  Do museum officials really believe that a move to the Shenandoah Valley is somehow going to attract larger numbers of visitors.  I just don’t see it.  In the end, you can’t ignore the simple fact that Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy, and the museum itself has a deep connection with the city.  The city is ringed with battlefield parks and is within close driving distance to Petersburg, Fredericksburg, and points east in the tidewater area.

The museum clearly needs to find a new location in Richmond because as I see it its purpose is most clearly defined in the city.  The MOC’s biggest problem is its image and it starts with the name itself.  My guess is that the city’s failure to fund the museum sufficiently has everything to do with this image and the larger cultural debates surrounding the Confederacy.  The tragedy of it all is that this museum does not pander to a narrow Lost Cause view of the war.  They have some very talented people working there who have put together excellent exhibits that touch on a wide range of issues including women’s roles and race.  While I suggested at one point that the museum should consider a name change,  I am convinced that the larger problems would persist regardless.  Perhaps the museum needs to demonstrate its worth more clearly to city officials and other interested parties in the form of outreach to schools etc.   The museum could be a wonderful venue where understanding of the Confederacy and the South is explored in ways that could prove helpful for an expanding and diverse city.  In short I don’t see this museum as a place where we get to engage in an overly simplistic form of heritage celebration; it is a place to visit where one can learn and be challenged.

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6 comments… add one
  • John Maass Jan 29, 2007 @ 13:41

    The comment that Lex is where “Lee’s cult of personality is at its dogmatically volcanic apex” is absurd.

  • Mannie Gentile Jan 27, 2007 @ 21:14


    Put me down as a “yes” for Lexington, and no, sadly I have not given this a great deal of thought, but here goes.

    Richmond has grown, by leaps and bounds, into a very ugly and inaccessible city, save for Tredegar hugging the river bank ( I think of the survivors of Hiroshima flocking to the cooling banks of the river in that particular holocaust).

    Lexington is a very pretty town in a very pretty location. It is also the Stepford Wives bastion of “lost cause” mythology. Lee’s cult of personality is at its dogmatically volcanic apex in that lovely little burg. Why not contain the saints and relics of the slave culture in one easy to avoid locale?

    Whaddya’ think?

    Let the Museum of the Confederacy go to Lexington, let the rest of us toddle on through reality sans the benefit of Lee’s hat, for goodness sakes.

    Second choice would be Burt, Michigan.

    Best wishes,


  • John Maass Jan 27, 2007 @ 16:08

    I think that the VMI alum was saying is that physically, the town cannot handle much more traffic from folks off I-81/64, given the way the streets are, parking issues, etc. But this assumes they would put such a museum downtown, or near the schools. I agree that in the short run, it would be a boon for Lexington. However, they are not going to get enough tourists to keep the place open, and then where would it go?

  • Charles Bowery Jan 27, 2007 @ 1:08

    I agree that Lexington is a bad idea. Perhaps the Tredegar complex offers a good home for the MOC, with the White House staying where it is. The city and the NPS have already done a good job there of turning a historical space into a modern museum. After having visited there a couple of times, it strikes me that there is room to expand.

    In my visits to the MOC, I have been consistently impressed with the range of exhibits. And I love the battle flag preservation program, in spite of the baggage that brings.

  • Kevin Levin Jan 26, 2007 @ 6:46

    What traffic will Lexington not be able to handle? Compared to Richmond the city of Lexington is in the middle of nowhere. You can’t say that in addition to the other attractions that the museum will pull in the numbers because you can say that now about Richmond (and then some) and it is still not happening.

    My bigger point is that the museum has a much clearer mission in Richmond than in Lexington.

  • VMI Cadets Jan 25, 2007 @ 21:13

    As a VMI Grad, I would absolutely support the MOC in Lexington….only to see it move in a few years for funding. I’m not sure Lexington could support the traffic at any rate.

    It needs to stay in the Richmond area. The White House should absolutely stay where it is.

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