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City documents reveal entities interested in Confederate statues

At least 14 organizations have expressed interest in acquiring Charlottesville’s statues of Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, according to city documents acquired by The Daily Progress. These museums, battlefields and historical sites are located both in and out of state.

The city also received at least 18 expressions of interest from private citizens across the country.

The Jefferson School African American Heritage Center is the only entity in the Charlottesville area that submitted a statement of interest in the statues, and was the first entity to do so.

Andrea Douglas, the center’s executive director, said in an interview that she has yet to hear back from the city.

“We’ve heard nothing from the city, so there’s really nothing to say about it,” Douglas said.

LAXART, an art museum in Los Angeles, submitted a statement of interest along with a proposal to include the statues as the centerpiece of its upcoming exhibit “MONUMENTS.”

“The exhibition will feature a selection of decommissioned Confederate monuments shown alongside works of contemporary art,” the museum’s director, Hamza Walker, wrote in a letter to City Manager Chip Boyles. “In addition to contextualizing the monuments socially, historically … the exhibition will squarely critique and confront the Lost Cause.”

The exhibition would be accompanied by educational materials for the general public, as well as students, Walker said.

Walker said LAXART already has secured major grant funding for the exhibition and is willing to pay the city $100,000 toward the cost of statue removal. According to the proposal, other cities have made agreements with LAXART to lend their Confederate statues for the exhibit.

The Ratcliffe Foundation in Tazewell also submitted a lengthy proposal alongside its statement of interest, including site maps for where the statues would be relocated. The foundation is a private organization that owns and maintains the Historic Ellenbrook Museum, which is the home of Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart.

The foundation proposed creating and placing the statues in an outdoor museum trail called the Southwest Virginia Historical Monuments Trail, which would be located around the perimeter of the Ellenbrook Museum.

The town of Goshen, Virginia, was the only municipal body to submit a statement of interest, requesting to acquire the statues for free from the city to place in front of its newly constructed community center to attract tourists.

Other interested entities include the Jim Crow Museum in Big Rapids, Michigan; the Gettysburg Sculpture Museum in Pennsylvania; the Ogletree Estate in Cornelia, Georgia; Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas; the Confederate Gen. Robert Toombs Camp in Higgston, Georgia; and the Controversial Art Trust in Charlotte, North Carolina.

According to city documents, Boyles contacted 12 entities about acquiring the statues. The only ones to respond were the HTR Foundation, a Civil War site preservation organization in St. Petersburg, Florida; and the Shenandoah Battlefield Foundation in New Market. Albemarle County sent its Confederate statue to the Shenandoah Battlefield in September.

Boyles contacted six additional in-state entities: the Virginia Museum of the Civil War in New Market; Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield in Culpeper; Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation in Middletown; Civil War Trails Inc. in Williamsburg; the Valentine Museum in Richmond; and the American Civil War Museum in Richmond.

Boyles also contacted Averasboro Battlefield & Museum in Dunn, North Carolina; American Battlefield Trust in Washington, D.C.; the Gettysburg Foundation in Pennsylvania; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

The city announced in a July 13 press release that it will continue to accept statements of interest from entities interested in acquiring the Confederate statues.

While the two statues were removed and placed in storage on July 10, the City Council still has not decided whether ownership of the statues should be transferred to a museum or other entity or if the statues should be demolished.

During the past month, the city has solicited for expressions of interest from any museum, historical society, government or military battlefield interested in acquiring one or both of the statues for relocation and placement.

In early September, Boyles will conduct outreach with the interested parties to further evaluate their interest and resources.

“The statues continue to be property of the city and in storage. While in storage, we can provide the public additional time to show interest while staff works with council on how best to obtain proposals from interested organizations,” Boyles wrote in an email to The Daily Progress. “Proposals of acquisition may be considered by the City Council to assist them in their determination for final disposition.”

Some councilors have voiced their opinions on where the statues should and should not be displayed.

Councilor Heather Hill told The Daily Progress in June that she is open to relocating the statues, but does not think they should go to a battlefield.

“The story of why they are no longer in our parks is really important and should be part of any contextualization if that were the direction that we would go,” Hill said.

Councilor Michael Payne also said it’s important to consider whether it is possible to relocate the statues without them continuing to celebrate the Confederacy.

“From my perspective, the top priority in determining the final disposition of the statues is ensuring they don’t end up in a location where they can be venerated and celebrated as symbols of either the Confederacy or the events of Aug. 11 and 12, [2017],” he said.

“To do so would uphold the statues as symbols of the Lost Cause, just in a different location. Likewise, doing so would fail to properly acknowledge how these statues are now inextricably bound up with the white supremacist terrorist attack on Aug. 12.”

Councilor Lloyd Snook said he was not opposed to relocating the statues but “it would have to be some place that was nowhere near here.”


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