Myths & Misunderstandings: The Museum

Last year, comments on one of our Facebook posts sparked a larger conversation about recurring debates about the Civil War. We asked our visitors, social media audiences, and staff to generate a list of the questions or topics about the Civil War that they think are the most misunderstood. It turns out that we get just as many questions about our own museum and its future, so we thought we’d address some of the more commonly asked questions.
 

“Did the Museum of the Confederacy and the American Civil War Center merge to form the American Civil War Museum to become more “politically correct”?”

The combination of the American Civil War Center (ACWC) and the Museum of the Confederacy (MOC) had nothing to do with politics. Instead, it was a decision made with a superior visitor experience in mind. Anyone who has been to the Museum of the Confederacy in the last several decades has noticed the continued growth of MCV around the Museum, making visiting and parking difficult. Historic Tredegar is still of immense Civil War significance. Plus, there is ample space and parking. It was proposed that the ACWC had the location and space and the MOC had the collections, why not join forces to bring those two things under one roof with a mission and vision to lead the nation in scholarship, exhibitions, and programs?

“If you are closing the Museum of the Confederacy building, the artifacts are probably going into storage never to be seen again!”

In the new museum facility at Historic Tredegar, there will be an 8,000 sq ft permanent exhibit as well as two temporary galleries that will rotate exhibits. This new exhibit space will be able to display more artifacts than ever before. The famous items belonging to Generals Lee, Stuart, Jackson, and more will still be on display, and now there will be even more to see.

A note about artifacts in general - being on display is hard on artifacts and our primary responsibility is the preservation of our collection for future generations. The exposure to lights, even ones made for collection displays, as well as being on body forms (for uniforms and clothing) is hard on items made over one hundred years ago. As a result, artifacts need to be rotated so they have time to rest. If you visit and don’t see an artifact you are expecting, check back in several months. It’s possible it’s just been rotated for preservation.

“What’s the future of the White House of the Confederacy?”

The White House of the Confederacy will continue to be open 362 days a year for tours, field trips, and programming. Plans are in place to put a temporary exhibit in the basement of the House to give visitors a deeper dive into subjects discussed on a White House tour. The Museum will also continue to devote funds to preserve the home. Upcoming projects including a hardscaping of the back garden, new carpeting, storm windows, and more. If you are interested in learning more about these projects, visit our House200 website.

“The new exhibits at the American Civil War Museum at Historic Tredegar will be PC, Unionist, anti-South, etc.”

There is no anti-Confederate agenda at play in the Museum’s plans for the new permanent exhibit at Historic Tredegar. The best analogy for our mission is this - you don’t watch a football game to only stare at one team. You have to watch what happens on the field and the sidelines, shifting your focus as the game progresses. The Civil War is no different. To understand the full picture, you must also focus on the other elements at play. Union troop movements, enslaved peoples seizing their freedom, political battles, the impact on First Nations and immigrant communities, women stepping out of traditional or prescribed roles, economic strife over how to pay for a war of this size - all of these factors, and more, come into play. To ignore the full picture does not do the story justice, and we fully believe that the whole story is one worth learning and studying.

“You’re going to sell all the Confederate artifacts!”

No. Nothing is being sold. Nothing is leaving the collection. In fact, the collection continues to grow as artifact donors continue to contribute to one - if not the - most important Civil War collection in the world.

“You’re rewriting history!”

Every generation asks new questions. It’s how we grow and learn. We aren’t rewriting history, but seek to ask new questions. We believe that understanding this period of American history is fundamental to understanding who we are as Americans. If new questions bring about new discourses - then those answers strengthen and give important breadth to our national narrative.

We’re excited to welcome everyone into our new museum space this coming spring. We think you’ll find a museum experience unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

 

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