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Museum forum set Nov. 15. Wilder will field residents' questions
Former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder is coming to Fredericksburg Nov. 15 to outline plans for his national slavery museum.

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Date published: 11/2/2001

Former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder will visit Fredericksburg Nov. 15 for a public forum at James Monroe High School on his proposed slavery museum.

Wilder and museum consultant Michael Neiditch will make a presentation and answer the public's questions on plans for the museum, which is slated to be built on 22 acres in the Silver Cos.' Celebrate Virginia development.

Audience members will be able to submit written questions at the forum, and a panel will select questions for Wilder and Neiditch to answer.

Mayor Bill Beck will moderate the discussion. He has chosen Mary Washington College history and American studies professor Carter Hudgins to serve on the panel and plans to ask two more "nonpolitical academics" to be panelists.

Beck, who has expressed reservations about a slavery museum in Celebrate Virginia, said panel members will serve as objective interviewers.

"I don't see the panel as anything political or anything with a particular agenda," he said. "I want people to understand the difficulties of starting a new museum and understand the complexities of everything involved here."

Beck said he hopes the presentation will clear up his questions about infrastructure for the museum site, visitation projections and the museum's collections.

Councilman Joe Wilson said he hopes people will come away from the forum feeling confident about the museum plans.

"I hope the public will be satisfied that the museum will be presented in such a way that the community will feel comfortable with the concept," he said.

The City Council voted in August to contribute $1 million, to be paid back through a special tax district, toward the museum if the three-member museum board decided to put it in Fredericksburg.

Wilder has said the museum could cost up to $200 million, much of which he hopes to raise through private donations.

The council's contribution is contingent upon Wilder's presentation and a final vote. Because Celebrate Virginia's zoning is in place, no other council votes are required for the museum's construction to move forward.