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Slavery exhibit a hit
U.S. National Slavery Museum's exhibit at UMW closes today

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Date published: 10/8/2004


More than 1,600 people have visited the U.S. National Slavery Museum's first major exhibit at the University of Mary Washington--about four times the number who attend most university gallery shows.

They came from the Fredericksburg region and throughout Virginia. They also traveled from Washington, Bowie, Md., Wilmington, N.C., New York City and Milwaukee. A woman who signed the guest register as coming from South Africa called the exhibit "eye-opening."

Of the dozens who signed the register placed at the Ridderhof Martin Gallery's entrance since the show opened Aug. 23, only one left a remark that included a comment some might consider negative. That person, who did not sign his or her name, said the museum belongs on the National Mall in Washington instead of in Fredericksburg.

But that person went on to say: "This is our American Holocaust and we deny it, causing its legacy to continue. We need to recognize this history fully in order to start to move beyond. Thank you for this beginning."

Today is the final day to see "Reflections on American Slavery: Selected Objects from the Collections of the United States National Slavery Museum." Anyone interested can visit the Ridderhof Martin Gallery between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

James Damron, assistant to the executive director and spokesman for the slavery museum, said museum officials are pleased with the response to the exhibit. He said they have no plans for another large-scale exhibit, but are considering ways to put some items on view.

"We'll certainly look into other avenues so people can see some of them before we open in 2007," Damron said.

The museum is to be built on 38 acres in the Fredericksburg portion of the Celebrate Virginia tourism complex.

The exhibit at UMW included a wide range of materials, including shackles, a slave coin and papers documenting the sale and ownership of men, women and children as slaves. The collection also included items--sheet music, political cartoons and news coverage--that offered insight into American attitudes about slavery and race in the 19th century and beyond.

Tom Somma, director of galleries for UMW, said he was careful in both the selection of items to display and their placement, recognizing the potential for intense emotional reactions.

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