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Museum forum draws a crowd. Wilder pitches slavery education plans
Former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder answers questions about his slavery museum at a public forum in Fredericksburg last night.

 Former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder details his plans for slavery museum.
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Date published: 11/16/2001

No private funds have been raised for a slavery museum slated to be built in Fredericksburg, former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder said last night.

"I have not asked the first person in America for a dime," he told the crowd assembled in James Monroe High School's auditorium for a public forum on his proposal.

Wilder said he has not yet begun raising money for the project, which he estimates will cost $150 million, because until recently, the museum's board of directors hadn't chosen a site.

The museum will be built on 22 acres in Fredericksburg, next to the Celebrate Virginia development, Interstate 95 and the Rappahannock River, the board decided last month. The Silver Cos., Celebrate Virginia's developer, has pledged to donate the site.

"We're in the process of formalizing the legal deed," Wilder said last night. "I'm not going to ask anybody for money until we are in formal possession of the property."

Wilder said he is waiting until the land transfer to enlarge the museum's three-member board. One of its members, Ruby Martin, who voted against putting the facility in Fredericksburg, has said she wants to resign, he said.

Hundreds of people attended last night's meeting. Many wore green T-shirts and stickers printed with "Museum YES!," while other people wore buttons that asked, "Should we $elebrate slavery?"

Area residents, city officials, business and community leaders submitted written questions for Wilder Michael Neiditch, his chief museum consultant. They answered queries on a wide range of topics:

The board plans to request proposals for a museum design from architects as early as February, said Neiditch, former director of endowment for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. It will hold a national design competition with help from the American Institute of Architects.

The museum's collection will be established through a national call for artifacts, Wilder said, adding that several people have contacted him about donating items.

"We will be highly selective as to what goes in," he said. He indicated that the museum does not plan to buy objects but will acquire them through loans and donations.

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