American Civil War Museum & VA Historical Society Combine Forces on Archival Resources
Virginia Historical Society, photo courtesy of wikipedia.org
RICHMOND, VA – In November 2013, The Museum of the Confederacy (MOC) and The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar announced that they have joined forces to form a new entity, The American Civil War Museum (ACWM), which will construct a major museum at the site of the Tredegar Iron Works on the James River.
As part of this significant rethinking of how museums can work together to accomplish greater results, the ACWM and the Virginia Historical Society (VHS) will similarly combine their individual capabilities for the preservation and use of hundreds of thousands of documents, manuscripts, maps, photographs and rare books. Historians, genealogists and others interested in studying the American Civil War will enjoy easier access to the vast archives of the MOC, thanks to this new partnership with the VHS.
The MOC and VHS have entered into an intellectual property licensing agreement, under which the MOC archive will move from its current location on Clay Street to the VHS. The VHS will house and scan the historic documents, catalog them and make the great majority of them available online, similar to work The Library of Congress and other institutions have done to make their collections more accessible to the public. The cost of this multi-million dollar effort will be shared by the ACWM and the VHS.
“Our partnership with VHS represents a great technological leap into the future,” explained ACWM co-CEO and former MOC President Waite Rawls. “Digitizing the MOC archive – taking photos of these documents for online viewing – takes these items out of dusty files and places them in front of the public where they belong. It is a win-win situation in which the papers will be better preserved and made more useful at the same time.”
“I am delighted by this partnership with the ACWM,” said VHS President and CEO Paul Levengood. “The Virginia Historical Society has long been a prime resource for scholars, genealogists, and students of the Civil War era, and the addition of the MOC collections makes our holdings so much richer. The combination will help us realize one of the goals of our current capital campaign: to become the nation’s foremost center for scholarship on the seminal conflict in American history.”
Under terms of the agreement, MOC will permanently retain ownership of the documents and photos, part of the collection begun in 1890 with the founding of the Confederate Memorial Literary Society. VHS will manage the archive and make it available to the public.
Researchers will not have immediate access to the MOC items, however. According to Levengood and Rawls, it will take some time to process the images and make them available. “The MOC collection will be unavailable for a time to be determined,” Rawls said. “We apologize for the inconvenience this may cause some researchers, and will gladly work with them to identify alternate sources of information.”
“This alliance offers a national model for the preservation and sharing of historic resources, combining a remarkable collection with first-rate archival capacity,” said Ed Ayers, chairman of the ACWM board. “Generations of researchers will be the beneficiaries.”
“The Civil War-related holdings of the Museum of the Confederacy and the Virginia Historical Society rank among the richest in the nation,” said Gary W. Gallagher, John L. Nau III Professor of History, University of Virginia. “The combined resources will attract wide and productive attention from scholars and other researchers.”
Founded in 1890, the Museum of the Confederacy houses one of the world’s largest collections of Civil War artifacts. Its combination with the American Civil War Center to create The American Civil War Museum will construct a 35,000+ square foot expansion at the Tredegar site with the goal of helping a diverse national and international audience learn American Civil War history in all its breadth and scope. Using dynamic and interactive exhibits, engaging educational programs and historical research, ACWM will tell a multitude of military, political and civilian stories of the people of the time. The new museum facility is scheduled to open at Historic Tredegar in 2016.
The Virginia Historical Society—a privately funded nonprofit organization—collects, preserves, and interprets the Commonwealth’s history, linking past with present to inspire future generations. Visitors may connect with the 8.5 million objects in the VHS collection through the research library, a variety of programs, and a recently redesigned website to learn more about the unparalleled story of Virginia. Exciting plans are underway to expand and improve VHS exhibitions in 2014 to offer visitors a better experience. The transformation of gallery spaces will create even more vibrant, accessible, and engaging gateways to America’s past. The VHS is located at 428 North Boulevard in Richmond’s Museum District. Admission is free. Hours are Monday–Saturday 10 a.m.–5 p.m. for the library, museum shop and a variety of programs. The VHS is closed on Sunday. For more information, call (804) 358-4901, visit www.vahistorical.org, or connect with the VHS on Facebook and Twitter.
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