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Museum planning clarified
Museum director says U.S. National Slavery Museum will stay in Fredericksburg

Date published: 7/19/2005


VIDEO: Vonita W. Foster, left, tells Adelphia Channel 3 News the museum remains on track.

The U.S. National Slavery Museum's executive director yesterday cleared up speculation about the museum's future in Fredericksburg.

There have been "no discussions of the museum leaving the city of Fredericksburg," Vonita W. Foster told Adelphia Channel 3 News in a short interview. "Our plans are to still build on our 38 acres in the city."

Last Thursday, two days after the Fredericksburg City Council voted to defer approval of a waiver of building and construction fees in order to get an update on the project, Foster faxed a memo to City Manager Phillip Rodenberg withdrawing the request.

She offered no explanation with her memo, and neither she nor museum assistant James Damron returned calls from The Free Lance-Star seeking comment.

On Sunday, Councilman Matt Kelly sent an e-mail to Richmond Mayor L. Douglas Wilder seeking clarification after Foster's actions and her remarks in Saturday's Richmond Times-Dispatch. In the newspaper, Foster would confirm only a museum location somewhere in Virginia.

Wilder, a grandson of slaves and the nation's first black governor, is the museum's founder and chairman of its board.

"I hope that the decision of the museum board to withdraw their request for fee waivers is not an indication that the information requested will not be forthcoming; or that the museum may be considering relocating as implied by your Executive Director in comments to the press," Kelly wrote. "I would be grateful if you could shed some light on these actions."

Wilder said in Richmond last week that the museum would be built in Fredericksburg, according to the Times-Dispatch.

Yesterday, Foster said she withdrew the fee-waiver request to avoid causing "friction" between council members.

When she learned of the 4-3 vote at the council meeting, she decided to take the action.

"It does not reflect any way on our plans," Foster said. "We did not want the controversy."

The museum is slated to be built on 38 acres donated by the Silver Cos. in Celebrate Virginia South. Foster told the city Planning Commission last month that the completion date had been pushed back from February 2007 to October 2007.

She told Adelphia she might sign a contract with a construction company yesterday and that the building might be finished sooner.

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