By Arianna Coghill
If asked who was involved in the Civil War, most Americans would list the usual suspects: Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, Stonewall Jackson.
But what about Elizabeth Van Lew, a Richmond abolitionist who worked as a spy for the Union army? Or Dr. Mary Walker, who received the Medal of Honor for treating prisoners of war on both sides? What roles did indigenous tribes and immigrants play during the war?
The American Civil War Museum, which holds its grand opening Saturday, aims to tell these stories and more through multimedia, artifacts and personal narratives.
As museum staffers have been setting up exhibits, they “are seeing artifacts being displayed in new ways and telling new stories,” said Stephanie Arduini, the museum’s director of education and programs.
Arduini said the 29,000-square-foot museum contains more than 500 artifacts. For example, visitors will be able to see the Confederate flag that Abraham Lincoln gave to his son, Tad, after the war ended — as well as a Native American moccasin that was sent to Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Museum officials said every creative choice associated with the project was deliberate, from the location of the artifacts near each other to the location of the museum itself.
The museum, at 500 Tredegar St., was built at a cost of $25 million on the grounds of the Tredegar Iron Works, which was the largest of its kind in the South and provided artillery for the Confederate States Army. The back wall of the main lobby is an authentic ruin of the ironworks’ central foundry.
“It’s a blend of historic architecture and the new, modern building that’s placed like an exhibit case over the ruins,” Arduini explained. “It’s a nice symbolic contrast of how we approached the stories of the war in terms of looking at the past but placing them in the context of the present.”
The museum, which will be open daily, merges collections from the former Museum of the Confederacy and the former American Civil War Center at Tredegar.
Walking into the pre-gallery space, museum visitors are bombarded with history. The space features large, colorized photos of both famous individuals and relatively unknown players in the Civil War.
Photos of Harriet Tubman are featured alongside Phoebe Pember, a Jewish nurse of the Civil War.
“We really wanted people to focus on the faces of the war,” Arduini said.
Solid Light, a company based in Louisville, Kentucky, designed the museum’s exhibits. Its goal was to tell the stories in a high-impact, visual way that would resonate with the audience.
The exhibits include interactive maps to highlight specific battle locations and personal stories of people who experienced them.
Ultimately, the goal of the museum is to move away from the classic narrative of the Civil War and to paint a more complete picture of the events that took place, officials said.
“Traditionally, the story of the Civil War focuses on battles and military strategy. Working closely with CEO Christy Coleman, we designed exhibits to create a more inclusive and authentic experience true to history and the people of the time,” said Cynthia Torp, the owner of Solid Light.
Arduini said museum officials wanted the facility to have a contemporary feel and aesthetic.
“We wanted it to feel vibrant and relevant, like something you’d expect at a museum about something that’s still shaping our lives — because this is still shaping our lives, even though it happened over a 150 years ago,” Arduini said.
Things to know
Location: 500 Tredegar St., along the James River near Belle Isle
Hours: Beginning Saturday, the museum will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Admission: $15 for adults; less for seniors, retired military, teachers, students, and children
For more information: The museum’s website is https://acwm.org, and the phone number is 804-649-1861.
Jackson Ward Interior Design Firm Starts New Venture
News out of Jackson Ward.
Today, Flourish Spaces, the Jackson Ward-based retail and commercial interior design firm, is announcing the opening of its retail showroom, The Flourish Collective, later this fall.
For Founder Stevie McFadden, interior design started as a passion before evolving into a career. As such, she is uniquely familiar with the struggles of both groups: design-lovers who want to curate their own homes, desperate to access product lines only available through designers, and interior designers running out of stores where their clients touch and feel samples before making a major purchase. The Flourish Collective solves for both problems.
The Flourish Collective will showcase custom furniture, fixtures, art, and home accents. Interior designers can bring clients to peruse before purchasing, while design-lovers can shop sought-after product lines while tapping into the expertise of the collective’s members who will be staffing the showroom on a rotating basis.
Inaugural members of The Flourish Collective include Flourish Spaces (interior design), Jamie Coffey (furniture, linens, and decor ), Wendy Umanoff (lighting design), Whittney Forstner (art and art curation), Sarah Rowland (wall coverings), Jason Lefton (dimensional wall murals), and Devon Cushman (tablescapes and holiday decor).
The Flourish Collective will be located at 221 E Clay Street. The space was previously occupied by Flourish Spaces, which has moved to the building’s second floor. At the time of opening, The Flourish Collective will be by appointment only, for both the public and designers.
Richmond Then and Now: 316 W. Broad Street
A then and now snapshot of Richmond locations.
Suspect Sought in Car Vandalisms
The man is suspected of keying several vehicles in the Shockoe Bottom area.
Richmond Police detectives need the public’s help to identify the suspect in the attached photos. He is suspected of keying several vehicles in the Shockoe Bottom area.
Sometime between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Sunday, August 23, a woman said she parked her car in the 2300 block of East Main Street. When she later went to move her car, she discovered someone had keyed her vehicle. The suspect also left a note stating, “This is a loading zone not a park however long you want zone.”
Detectives believe the suspect also is responsible for keying several other cars in the area.
Anyone with information about the identity of the suspect is asked to call First Precinct Detective T. Wilson at (804) 646-0672 or Crime Stoppers at 780-1000.