Editorial: Prompting civil discussion
Unless you live under a rock, you’re well aware of the controversy and turmoil of late surrounding racial-driven protests and marches.
Some protestors feel statues and monuments of Confederate generals or officials are celebratory of a movement that fought for the preservation of slavery, among other things, which has led to some statues being moved.
There are hundreds of museums, historical sites and monuments around the U.S. that are dedicated to events or persons affiliated with the Civil War, including people who served the Confederacy. As of press date, there haven’t been any major stories involving pushes to alter or shut down museums, although I’m sure some have received feedback on the situation.
The American Civil War Museum in Virginia oversees three historic sites — the Confederate “White House” in Richmond, the Historic Tredegar and an Appomattox museum that is nearly 12,000 square feet. The museum store sells all things Civil War, including some that might qualify as controversial, such as Confederate Army flags.
To say museum administrators have had a busy summer would be an understatement. The media has flocked to them as a resource for historical information and context. Not surprisingly, debate found its way to the ACWM’s Facebook page. Administrators quickly saw it as an opportunity.
“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. In providing answers to these, our goal is to do the research for you, consulting with primary sources, leading historians, and the latest scholarship, and distill it into something you can read quickly over a cup of coffee. Join us every other week for the next installment of this new blog series: Myths and Misunderstandings,” Tally Botzer, programs specialist, wrote on the museum website.
The museum followed through with its blog series, with the first posted on Aug. 15. The staff promotes constructive and calm dialogue on its Facebook page by prominently establishing its behavior guidelines and enforcing them.
Whether it is a museum, aquarium, national park or zoo, many of our readers work for an organization in the business of providing education through some sort of entertainment.
We salute American Civil War Museum for being a leader in what is a controversial and sometimes uncomfortable discussion.
— Zeke Jennings is the managing editor of Museums & More magazine. He can be reached at [email protected].