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November 17, 2013

Civil War museums merge

RICHMOND, Va. — One museum has among its vast Confederate-centric collection Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s sword and the flag that flew at Robert E. Lee’s headquarters. The other museum strives to tell the story of the Civil War through the eyes of Northerners and Southerners, freed and enslaved blacks, soldiers and civilians.

Now the Museum of the Confederacy and the American Civil War Center are joining forces to build a $30 million museum in Richmond with the goal of creating the top Civil War museum in the nation 150 years after the deadliest conflict fought on U.S. soil.

The marriage of museums, announced to The Associated Press, will meld the collection of Confederate battle flags, uniforms, weapons and other historic relics with a narrative-based museum that uses bold, interactive exhibits and living history events to relate its 360-degree telling of the war.

What some might view as an unlikely partnership “makes so much sense” to Christy Coleman, president of the American Civil War Center, which opened in 2000 at a site where the new museum will rise.

“That’s part of the point,” Coleman said in an interview with The Associated Press. “They have an incredible collection that is absolutely Confederate strong, but there are a lot of artifacts that have not been able to be fully explored or used to relate to the African-American experience or immigrants or the role of Jews.”

Coleman said the Confederacy museum’s collection will complement her museum’s mission of looking at the social and political stories of the Civil War.

“The combination of that is what makes this so exciting to us,” she said.

In a joint announcement, the museums said the new historic attraction in the former capital of the Confederacy has yet to be named, but $20 million has been committed to its construction. Ground will be broken in 2014, with an expected opening the following year.

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