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Museum misses slave-ship grant page 2
U.S. National Slavery Museum fails to qualify for government grant for slave ship but could try again


Date published: 10/5/2004

By PAMELA GOULD

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That category calls for the facility's primary mission to be as a transportation museum, but eligibility can apparently be met by looking at the facility as a museum within a museum--essentially the case at Jamestown.

The U.S. National Slavery Museum application was ruled ineligible because building a replica ship doesn't qualify.

Jamestown initially ran into the same problem. But after officials adjusted the wording to call the Godspeed and Discovery "floating museums," they met eligibility requirements, according to VDOT documents.

Damron attended a grant-writing workshop last fall and then submitted a draft application, according to a VDOT report. He failed, however, to make the changes suggested by VDOT personnel when he crafted his final application and thus the museum was one of four applicants that failed to even qualify for consideration.

"Three separate staff members reviewed the application, and, by telephone, passed our comments on to Mr. Damron," an internal VDOT document states. "In those comments he was advised that in our opinion, and based on previous guidance from FHA on similar projects, for this application to be eligible for enhancement funding, the application had to focus on the transportation-related aspects of the ship and not the slavery exhibit.

"The official application submitted was not altered sufficiently enough from the 'draft application' in addressing those transportation related aspects."

The next round of applications is due Nov. 1 for funding that would be available after Oct. 1, 2005.

Museum officials say the facility will open in Fredericksburg's Celebrate Virginia tourism complex in 2007.

Another hurdle slavery museum officials would have to overcome is their lack of support from the Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. The VDOT grants require local officials with a stake in transportation projects give their support before federal funds are disbursed.

Shenault said lack of support won't stop a project from getting through the application process, but it would eventually be fatal.

"That would kill the project," he said.

The grant application stated that FAMPO's endorsement was "pending," but the organization failed to support the project and has no plans to take up the matter again unless someone connected with the museum makes a request, Executive Director Stephen Manster said.

FAMPO Chairman Hap Connors, who is also a Spotsylvania County supervisor, said the regional organization tabled the request last spring pending further information.

"This, to us, seemed to be stretching the intent of the program," he said. "With very limited resources, we're trying to be more judicious."

To reach PAMELA GOULD: 540/657-9101 pgould@freelancestar.com


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