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Richmond's Museum of the Confederacy looks to partner with Spotsylvania
By DAN TELVOCK
Imagine combining the world's largest Civil War collection with two of the war's major battlefields.
Museum of the Confederacy President Waite Rawls and Spotsylvania County officials already have.
The museum in Richmond plans to announce today that it wants Spotsylvania to become a partner in a system of museums statewide to relocate some of its artifacts. Spotsylvania is home to all or part of four Civil War battlefields--Chancellorsville, Court House, Wilderness and Fredericksburg.
"I think the idea of bringing artifacts to the battlefields is a wonderful concept," said Civil War Preservation Trust President Jim Lighthizer. "Spotsylvania is ground zero for the American Civil War. More happened in that county than anywhere in the country."
Richmond's museum officials have been searching for a new home since October. Dwarfed by Virginia Commonwealth University hospital, the museum has seen its business drop by half since 1991--to about 45,000 visitors in 2006.
Relocating artifacts, Rawls said, would take the collection to the visitor, "rather than trying to get the visitor to come to us."
Spotsylvania and Appomattox counties are named as the top locations to begin the system of museums. Rawls hopes to open new sites by 2011, the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War.
But his plan is contingent on financing and local approval.
The Richmond museum will remain open for at least five years. After that, its future is uncertain, Rawls said.
There are no plans to change the operation of the museum-owned White House of the Confederacy next door, he said.
The Museum of the Confederacy's collections include uniforms, battle flags and soldiers' personal possessions. Rawls said one of the items he'd like to re- locate to Spotsylvania is the famous 1869 painting "The Last Meeting" of Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson at Chancellorsville.
"If there is any iconic image of the Confederacy, it's that painting," he said.
The Mullins Farm off State Route 3 is the site of fighting on the first day of the Battle of Chancellorsville. Several sources close to the discussions said supervisors are eyeing this site to house the artifacts.