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Wilder: Slavery museum will stay
Wilder says museum will be built and in Fredericksburg

Date published: 3/13/2009


Former Richmond Mayor L. Douglas Wilder said this week that the U.S. National Slavery Museum he envisioned while governor will be built and won't be changing locations.

"The Museum Board is committed to its stated and moral obligations to the Fredericksburg community and its legal representatives," Wilder said in an online statement posted Wednesday.

But he stated that a lack of funds continues to delay progress on the project.

Yesterday, a representative for Wilder told the Virginia Office of Consumer Affairs that by next Friday the museum will file documentation to re-establish its registration to solicit charitable contributions, according to a state spokeswoman.

The slavery museum allowed that registration to lapse last summer, but its Web site continues to solicit funds. State law requires registration by all entities that solicit contributions.

Wilder said Wednesday in a statement posted on a Richmond-based blog and in an interview with NBC affiliate WWBT-TV in Richmond that he has no plans to move his dream facility to the state capital, as some have suggested.

Wilder did not respond yesterday to a message left with his assistant by The Free Lance-Star. He currently works out of an office at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University.

In the televised interview, Wilder said he wanted to "make clear" that he had not scrapped his plans to build the museum in Fredericksburg.

"We are there. We intend to stay there. We intend to build there," he said.

However, the slavery museum offices in Central Park are no longer staffed, the phone line has been disconnected, and the museum owes the city of Fredericksburg $24,288.89 in back taxes and interest. The museum has another bill for $21,372.40 due May 15.

Fredericksburg Mayor Tom Tomzak said he has not heard from Wilder since he visited the city last spring to ask for a real-estate tax exemption.

"It's encouraging to hear that he still wants to put the museum here, but he's not talked to the city at all," Tomzak said.

Wilder said last spring and repeated in this week's statements that the economy has severely hurt his ability to raise funds to build the museum.

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In 2001, former Richmond Mayor L. Douglas Wilder announced plans to build the museum in Fredericksburg on 38 acres bordered by Interstate 95 and the Rappahannock River. The Silver Cos. donated the land, which sits within its Celebrate Virginia project.

Dates to open the museum--or at least part of it--have continually been pushed back because of a lack of funds. The latest cost estimate for the project was $200 million.