American Civil War Museum


The spectacular American Civil War Museum opened in May in Richmond, Virginia, built in and around the ruins of the historic Tredegar Iron Works on the banks of the James River. It is a new home for the collections of the former Museum of the Confederacy, which opened in 1896 in the White House of the Confederacy, a building once occupied by the South's president, Jefferson Davis, and his family.

That museum functioned chiefly as a shrine displaying relics of the "Lost Cause." The new Tredegar facility instead provides visitors with a more comprehensive and inclusive interpretation of the Civil War. Like any museum, it displays artifacts, including maps, weaponry, uniforms, period photographs, and slave shackles. It also offers a wider-scope view than mere objects can provide via interactive timelines detailing significant events in both the North and the South.

Importantly, the evils of slavery and the shattering of the promise of Emancipation by the spread of Jim Crow apartheid are no longer obscured by antebellum Gone with the Wind nostalgia, as they were in previous museums. And the contributions of black Americans who fought in that war as spies and soldiers, and who later struggled to uphold their rights as citizens, are rightly highlighted.