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Wilder, city manager, Silver Cos. meet on slavery-museum plan
Organizers of a national slavery museum come to Fredericksburg to explore it as a possible site for the project.

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Date published: 5/24/2001

Officials interested in a national slavery museum met to discuss Fredericksburg as a possible site last week, but the project is not likely to come before City Council anytime soon.

City Manager Marvin Bolinger said yesterday he and other city staff members attended a meeting May 17 with representatives of the Silver Cos. and the National Park Service. Former Gov. Douglas Wilder, who is promoting the museum idea, was also at the meeting, according to one person present. Bolinger would not confirm or deny that Wilder was there.

Bolinger also would not give details of what was discussed. He said it was an exploratory discussion and he needed to gather more information before reporting to the council.

"That's part of our job, to help interpret the plan and see where it fits," he said. "Whether there will be another museum in Fredericksburg, there's miles to go be-fore there is a decision."

Silver Cos. Chief Executive Officer Larry Silver also declined to discuss details of the session.

The meeting was held two days after the City Council directed Bolinger to find out more about the proposed museum. The council wants the information so it can decide whether to support the museum and help the Silver Cos. pursue it.

Wilder said in a speech last month that the Silver Cos.' Celebrate Virginia tourism campus is one site being considered for the project. Plans for Celebrate Virginia include museums, restaurants, hotels and shops on the Fredericksburg side of the Rappahannock River and golf courses, offices and shops on the Stafford County side.

Museum organizers also are looking at Jamestown, Hampton and Richmond, and a group in Washington is working to have the project located there.

Two Spotsylvania County residents at Tuesday night's council meeting said they are opposed to a slavery museum in Fredericksburg. Robert Liepelt said he also was concerned about the "secret" nature of the May 17 meeting.

"Were its results none of our business?" he asked the council.

The meeting was not open to the public, and was not required to be. Virginia law requires government meetings to be public only when they include more than two members of a public body. Bolinger said no elected city officials were present.

Bolinger said there was nothing secret about the meeting and that he attended because the council had asked him to look into the project. He said there were no results to provide to the public.

He said it was a "get-to-know-you" meeting, as some of the museum representatives had never been to Fredericksburg before.

"I meet with people--developers, organizations, people thinking about projects, people thinking about thinking about projects--every day," Bolinger said. "The Thursday meeting was just another one of those."

Staff writers Laura L. Hutchison and Jonathan Hunley contributed to this story.