Those who have been following the Civil War’s 150th anniversary know that the two major purposes of the Sesquicentennial are 1) to correct the mistakes made during the Centennial in the 1960s and, 2) to incorporate the historiographical shifts that have taken place since that time. Historians, park rangers, curators, and others have been working hard the last few years to make this a reality, and no one has faced a harder challenge in these endeavors than officials at museums dedicated to the history of the Confederacy. Some, such as the Museum of the Confederacy itself, have made great strides in recent years, doing much to abandon the Lost Cause narrative that was the original mission of these institutions. Others are working equally hard but finding it difficult to enact change. Budgets have shrunk due to the economic crisis; attendance, a chief source of revenue, has been down in recent decades as younger people have largely stayed away; corporate sponsorship, a staple of today’s museum experience, is next to impossible because sponsors do not want to associate their brand with the Confederate States of America. I have visited numerous such museums across the Deep South and can attest that many, even the smallest, contain valuable artifacts worth preserving. (The most poignant for me was the one in rural Arkansas that my father, who died three years ago, drove me sixty miles to visit.) I predict that those that refuse to change in any way–and there are many–will eventually become so anachronistic that they will disappear for good. Louisiana’s Civil War Museum at Confederate Memorial Hall is trying to make the transition.
(image/Voice of America)