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Two Civil War museums in Va. plan to merge

Christy Coleman (left), director of the American Civil War Center at Tredegar Iron Works, and Waite Rawls of the Museum of the Confederacy at the old Tredegar Iron Works.
Christy Coleman (left), director of the American Civil War Center at Tredegar Iron Works, and Waite Rawls of the Museum of the Confederacy at the old Tredegar Iron Works.Steve Helber/Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. — One museum has among its vast Confederate-centric collection Thomas ‘‘Stonewall’’ Jackson’s sword and the flag that flew at Robert E. Lee’s headquarters. The other museum strives to tell the story of the Civil War through the eyes of Northerners and Southerners, freed and enslaved blacks, soldiers and civilians.

Now the Museum of the Confederacy and the American Civil War Center are joining forces to build a $30 million museum in Richmond with the goal of creating the top Civil War museum in the nation 150 years after the deadliest conflict fought on US soil.

What some might view as an unlikely partnership makes sense to Christy Coleman, president of the American Civil War Center, which opened in 2000 at a site where the new museum will rise.

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‘‘That’s part of the point,’’ Coleman said. ‘‘They have an incredible collection that is absolutely Confederate strong, but there are a lot of artifacts that have not been able to be fully explored or used to relate to the African-American experience or immigrants or the role of Jews.’’

In a joint announcement, the museums said the new historic attraction in the former capital of the Confederacy has yet to be named, but $20 million has been committed to its construction. Ground will be broken in 2014, with an opening the following year.

The new museum will be located along the James River, at the Tredegar Iron Works, where many of the South’s cannons were forged during the war. It’s also the home of the Civil War Center.

At the new attraction, Coleman will share the title of chief executive with Waite Rawls, president of the Confederacy museum, which traces the origins of much of its collections to men who fought for the South and their descendants.

Associated Press