A new 30,000 square foot museum is headed to Tredegar and set to open in 2015.
“We really see this as a way to put Richmond, and this new museum, on the map as a place that you must see,” said Christy Coleman, president of the American Civil War Center.
Under the plan, the 15,000 items under control of the Museum of the Confederacy and the 3,000 items owned by the Civil War Center will be combined into an over 30,000 square foot museum. “For the first time, we’re going to be able to create something that brings all these pieces together,” Coleman said.
Unlike the locations of specific Civil War battles that commemorate specific parts of the Civil War, Coleman said Richmond was central throughout the war’s duration. “Richmond was important for those four years, without a doubt,” she said. The new museum will reflect this and will “tell important stories about who we become as a nation.”
The museum will likely be constructed somewhere along the Tredegar property near the Civil War Center. Coleman said that roughly $20 million has been committed to the $30 million project. Those donors and individuals will be announced in early 2014. The goal is to open the new museum in fall 2015.
Coleman said that D.C. firm Edelman Berland is currently conducting market research to help name the new museum. “They’re actually testing six different names and six different logos,” she said. It’s unknown when a new name will be finalized and announced.
While the two museums will share assets, they are not merging. “Both institutions will continue to be legal entities,” Coleman said. “We’re not going away.”
Ties that bind
The new partnership rose from an existing relationship the two museums have forged over the last five years. Coleman and S. Waite Rawls III, president and CEO of the Museum of the Confederacy (MOC), initially discussed ways the institutions could partner to herald the Civil War Sesquicentennial. They later got to talking about several difficulties the MOC was facing.
Coleman learned that the VCU and MCV expansion “made it increasingly difficult to get into the MOC.” She also learned “preservation issues are significant” at the 1201 E. Clay Street building.
Coleman and Rawls discussed the respective issues facing each museum–the increased difficulty to visit the MOC and the comparative newness of the Civil War Center1–but then turned to positives of each. “What are the strengths of the two organizations?,” Coleman said.
For Coleman, the MOC’s collection of 15,000 items, to her an “extraordinary national treasure,” and large base of supportive donors made the core of MOC operations robust. For the Civil War Center, its Tredegar location and “broad base of support among corporate foundations and individuals” made a partnership ideal.
As conversations between the two museums continued, so did plans for The Civil War Center to break ground this past summer in constructing a new addition as part of its capital campaign. But the Center ultimately staved off construction crews. “I’m glad we did,” Coleman said, as plans moved from adding to the Civil War Center to creating a new museum in partnership with the MOC.
Although the specific site for the new museum hasn’t been determined yet,2 Coleman said it is “likely” be at the lower level of the Tredegar property and sit in front of the Foundry Building. The Civil War Center will likely have to raze its gift shop building to accommodate the new structure.
Despite seeing a piece of her own museum crumble, Coleman believes the museum that will rise in its place will worth it. “It’s really going to be special,” she said.
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photo of the Museum of the Confederacy by Ryan Crierie