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Thumbs up for slavery museum show
U.S. National Slavery Museum's show opens at the University of Mary Washington's Ridderhof Martin Gallery

 National Slavery Museum Executive Director Vonita W. Foster listens to Audrey Burt of Spotsylvania last night
at the opening of the Ridderhof Martin Gallery exhibition.

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Date published: 8/24/2004


J.W. and Annette Cross were passing through Fredericksburg for a vacation in Washington when they learned about the U.S. National Slavery Museum's gallery show.

They had heard of former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder's interest in building a museum to tell the story of slavery, so when they realized they could be among the first to get a glimpse of his vision, they adjusted their plans.

"We did our visit to Washington, D.C., but we made a special effort to come back here just for this," J.W. Cross of Martinsville said last night.

The issue of how Africans were brought to America is "very much understated," he said. "The sooner we deal with it, the sooner we get over the denial and be a better nation."

The Crosses were among 180 people who attended the show's opening at the Ridderhof Martin Gallery at the University of Mary Washington. The university averages about 125 for its gallery openings, a gallery intern said.

The free show runs through Oct. 8 and offers visitors an opportunity to see some of the more than 6,000 items collected by museum officials so far.

The museum is slated to open in 2007 and is to be built on 38 acres in the Celebrate Virginia development in Fredericksburg. The museum site overlooks the Rappahannock River and yesterday gallery visitors got the chance to see what architect Chien Chung Pei envisions for the 250,000-square-foot structure.

A print of his design was available, but a model of the building was not ready. It will be added to the show when it's finished, museum assistant James Damron said.

Preliminary plans for the museum's three stories were also displayed. The plans outlined the placement of a replica slave ship and the location of exhibit space, library, boardroom, gift shop, theater and instructional areas.

Educators, artists, UMW students and some Fredericksburg councilmen were among the visitors last night. About two-thirds of the crowd was white.

Those interviewed gave the exhibition positive reviews.

Janet Payne, coordinator of the visual and performing arts center for Stafford County schools, said she came as "a museum junkie." What she left with was a grasp of the challenge museum officials face in deciding the scope of their story.

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