Name chosen for newly combined Civil War museum

The American Civil War Museum has been chosen as the name for the newly combined Museum of the Confederacy and American Civil War Center.

The simple name rose to the top in testing of both traditional and nontraditional names for the new entity, said Christy Coleman and Waite Rawls, co-CEOs of the new museum.

“The very strong consensus from all over, from heritage groups who knew us really well to people who barely ever heard of us, was, ‘Don’t mess around. Tell us what it is,’” said Rawls, who was head of the Museum of the Confederacy.

“If it’s a museum, tell us it’s a museum. Don’t use a word that might make people stop and think, or a word that might be out of vogue 10 years from now.”

Along with the new name, the new institution will use a tagline: “Confederacy, Union, Freedom.”

“I think the tagline is important,” said Coleman, who was head of the American Civil War Center.

Focus groups were saying “loud and clear that we want to make sure what you’re talking about is a more comprehensive thing. We don’t want the Confederacy watered down. We don’t want the Confederacy given extra weight. Keep the politics out of it and tell us what happened, and we will come away from it with our own understanding,” Coleman recalled. “That has been our goal from the beginning. We wanted to make sure that was clear out the gate.”

From Rawls’ perspective, “the word Confederacy gives a nod to the traditions and legacy of The Museum of the Confederacy.”

In combination with the words Union and Freedom, the tagline encompasses “the issues contested and resolved in the Civil War,” he added. “Were we going to have an independent nation or a united nation, and were we going to have freedom or not?”

The title was presented to the museum’s executive committee on Dec. 19 and was adopted by the full board Jan. 3.

Edward L. Ayers, the University of Richmond president who is chairman of the new board, noted that the new name with tagline “highlights the comprehensive nature of the story and recognizes the traditions and legacy of both institutions.”

“The Museum of the Confederacy has an international reputation for its unparalleled collection of Civil War artifacts. The American Civil War Center has established itself as a leader in telling the Civil War story in all its breadth and scope.”

The American Civil War Museum will be headquartered on the historic site of the Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond, where its leaders plan to construct a new museum building to combine the best aspects of The Museum of the Confederacy and the American Civil War Center.

The building concept may be ready for release next month, with a goal of beginning construction in late summer, Coleman said. The project is expected to take up to two years to complete. The cost is estimated at $30 million, of which $20 million has already been committed.

The goal of The American Civil War Museum is to help a diverse national and international audience learn American Civil War history in all its breadth and scope, according to the museum’s announcement.

Using dynamic and interactive exhibits, engaging educational programs and historical research, the museum will tell a multitude of military, political and civilian stories of the people of the time. It will also ensure and strengthen the preservation of an unparalleled collection of Civil War artifacts.

Edelman Berland consulting firm in Washington conducted market research to gather public input on the new institution and its name. The firm is also working on a logo and initial branding for the new institution.

Research from late October through December included telephone and focus group interviews, and email surveys. Participants in the market study ranged from people representing heritage groups and Civil War roundtables to museum supporters and members of the general public.

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