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Richmond aggresses

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Date published: 3/8/2009

[D]evelopments have produced renewed calls for bringing the slavery museum to Richmond--where, by all lights, it properly belongs. Fredericksburg is a fine city, but its claim to history is a faint shadow of Richmond's.

--"It Belongs Here," Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial, March 1

THE NUNCIOS of the Holy City have spoken, let lesser breeds attend. Doug Wilder's U.S. National Slavery Museum belongs in storied Richmond, not the provinces. But whoa. Since 99.9 percent of that museum is in Mr. Wilder's head, and Mr. Wilder is in Richmond, it would seem the nuncios already have what they seek, and welcome they are to it. On a technical note, however, we would counsel against writing phrases such as "by all lights," which don't sound quite right and produce images of slick-jowled lads with their sweater sleeves tied around their necks--not exactly the Stonewall Brigade.

Well, who among us hasn't tapped out one or two flabby essays in the service of boosterism? But in their long recitation of the glory that was Richmond--St. John's Church, where Patrick Henry held forth; the Manchester dock, where longshoremen sorted slaves; Tredegar Iron Works, which strained to keep the Confederacy in cannon--the nuncios don't totally sew up the case for Richmond's genius for historic compatibility. One thinks of Monument Avenue, where giants of stone memorialize the Greatest of the Gray: Generals Lee, Jackson, and Ashe.

Also, to cite the Museum of the Confederacy as a thematic argument for a Richmond-based slavery museum is to lead with one's chin. Having allowed a hospital to engulf the Confederate museum, Richmond now sees it breaking up and fleeing to less confining state locations, including, possibly, Fredericksburg. Part of the facility, to be sure, remains in the MCV gullet, which provides the opportunity for synergistic exhibits such as "Colonoscopies at Chickamauga" and "Pickett's Charge After a Twenty-Dollar Co-pay."

Also, though Richmond is a fine city, its history has not always shone. Recall the cataclysmic business-district fire of 1865, in which retreating Rebs, speculators, and looters all had a hand. All was destroyed, history tells us, except for some warehouses full of sweaters with their sleeves tied together.

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