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Museum to brief residents
National Slavery Museum will hold public information session Dec. 4.

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Date published: 11/25/2002

Wilder to issue progress report

The National Slavery Museum is planning a public update for next month, where museum officials are expected to introduce board members, staff and a potential architect.

Earl Yates, executive director of the museum planned for 38 acres in Fredericksburg's Celebrate Virginia tourism development, said the Dec. 4 event is intended to bring the community up to speed on the project.

"The point is to say, 'This is where we are with the planning process,'" said Yates, who emphasized when he was hired last month that he wants to involve area residents in developing the museum.

The informational event will take place at 5 p.m. at Mary Washington College's Dodd Auditorium. Former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, chairman of the museum's board, and other board members are expected to attend, Yates said.

The only other known board member is Hampton University President William Harvey, but Yates said more members will be announced at the event.

Yates, who previously worked with the Peace Corps and the African Development Foundation, said he is recruiting staff members, including someone to lead fund-raising efforts. The museum is expected to cost $100 million to $200 million.

The museum previously had announced the hiring of Edward Robinson, a former development officer with the University of Virginia, as its senior development adviser.

"He is not going to join us," Yates said, explaining that the deal with Robinson fell through.

But the museum is working on a deal with an architect. Yates said officials have been talking with Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, the New York City firm founded by world-renowned architect I.M. Pei.

A representative of the firm will attend the Dec. 4 event, Yates said. Pei's firm has designed well-known museums including the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland.

The slavery museum also will unveil its official Web site at the public meeting, Yates said.

Fredericksburg Mayor Bill Beck said he's had no contact with museum organizers since the city provided a $1 million loan for the project earlier this year.

"I certainly plan to be there and look forward to hearing whatever there is to learn at this point," said Beck, who has questioned the appropriateness of the museum's site.

City Councilman Hashmel Turner, who has supported the museum effort, would not say whether he has been in contact with the project's organizers, but said, "I've been asked to keep things confidential and let the board make its announcements."

Councilman Joe Wilson, also a supporter of the project, said the scheduled update is timely, since the museum opened an office last month in Central Park.

"I think they're right on target," he said.