Architectural concept for new Richmond museum expected this week

Two of Richmond’s Civil War museums announced last month a plan to jointly build and manage a new $30 million, 35,000-square-foot museum that will capitalize on the Museum of the Confederacy’s (MOC) extensive collection of artifacts and on the American Civil War Center’s (ACWC) available land. Officials expect to get a first look at the architect’s plans this week.

ACWC president Christy Coleman said those plans for the two- or three-story building will be considered when the board for the new and as yet unnamed museum meets for the first time in January. It will be made up of the existing board members from each of the museums, and will be chaired by University of Richmond president Edward Ayers. Coleman and MOC President Waite Rawls will serve as co-CEOs.

“If the board likes it, we will announce it,” Coleman said. “We have a very aggressive goal of opening in the fall of 2015.”

The building will be on the nine-acre campus of the ACWC, but an exact site has not yet been selected.

The partnership is an odd one, joining together a 123-year-old museum dedicated to all things Confederate and the seven-year-old upstart that was founded to tell a larger story of the Civil War by including the view point of the Union and African Americans as well as the Confederacy. The ACWC is located in the historic, Tredegar Iron Works which manufactured cannons and munitions for the Confederacy.

Rawls said the partnership is a practical undertaking. “We have joined forces to take advantage of each others’ strengths,” he said. “Their strength is location, and ours is our collection. Their weakness is their collection, and ours is our location. We will have the best collection at the best location.”

The MOC has the White House of the Confederacy where President Jefferson Davis and his family lived during the war and the nearby Museum of the Confederacy. They are close to invisible from the street because the neighboring Virginia Commonwealth University Hospital has expanded several times, curling around the museum property. In response to that problem, the MOC opened a satellite museum at Appomatox, Va. several years ago.

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