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Museum seeks quarters here
Former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder visits Fredericksburg in search of office space for his slavery museum.

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Date published: 4/12/2002

Wilder inspects office offerings in city

Former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder visited downtown Fredericksburg yesterday in search of office space for his National Slavery Museum.

He was accompanied by his longtime friend and museum adviser H. Louis Salomonsky, a Richmond developer who said he is assisting with "the minutiae" of establishing the museum.

Wilder didn't give a specific date for opening a museum office here. One of the terms of a $1 million loan from the city is that the museum must open an office in Fredericksburg by October.

"We're going to settle on some place real soon," Wilder said, adding that he has not yet decided who will staff the office.

Kathy Beard, the city's economic development director, and Mary Katherine Greenlaw, a Realtor with Sullivan Properties, show Wilder several downtown office suites yesterday.

They included a first-floor suite in the Princess Anne Building at 904 Princess Anne St. and another in the Law Building of Fredericksburg at 910 Princess Anne.

The Silver Cos. has donated 38 acres in its Celebrate Virginia tourism development for the museum site. The museum and other property owners in Celebrate Virginia will be charged an additional real-estate tax levy to repay the city's loan to the museum.

Wilder has said he hopes to have something on the museum site sometime next year. He said yesterday he plans to involve Fredericksburg residents in the effort "at every level."

No one from Fredericksburg was asked to take part in a brainstorming session on the museum at Howard University last month. Afterward, Michael Neiditch, chief museum adviser, told The Free Lance-Star no local experts or officials were invited because "it was a scholarly symposium."

"I would apologize for any suggestion there are not scholars here," Wilder said. "That's the problem you run into when you have too many people speaking for the museum."

Wilder said museum organizers are considering holding a future scholarly seminar in Chicago or California.

Wilder said he will work with the Congressional Black Caucus to plan his National Slavery Museum. He said he doesn't think his museum will duplicate similar projects planned for Washington, Detroit, Charleston, S.C., and other cities.

Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Okla., and Kansas Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, who have been working to establish the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, participated in last month's symposium.

Wilder said Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., another leader in the effort to establish an African-American museum in Washington, was invited but did not come.

"I don't see any competition," Wilder said. "I haven't heard of anyone speaking of a slavery museum of the content we're speaking of."