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Slavery Museum won't share studies
Slavery Museum, Fredericksburg officials still working out plan to meet, discuss spending.

Date published: 12/15/2005



A spokesman for the U.S. National Slavery Museum reaffirmed yesterday that the museum does not intend to release studies conducted under a $1 million contract it signed with Fredericksburg in 2002.

"I don't see [Richmond Mayor L. Douglas] Wilder moving on that," said museum spokesman Michael J. Smith. Wilder, a former governor of Virginia, founded the museum.

Smith said some of the information in the studies is proprietary. He specifically cited a desire to keep information from view of the people building the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington.

Vonita W. Foster, the museum's executive director, issued the following statement through Smith about whether the studies would be released.

"The U.S. National Slavery Museum is a private entity and we have conducted studies for internal use," she said. "Meanwhile, Gov. L. Douglas Wilder will be speaking at the National Press Club on Feb. 7, 2006, to discuss our plans. We are inviting members of the City Council to the press conference. The media will be able to report on our plans to all interested parties in Fredericksburg."

City Manager Phillip Rodenberg and Fredericksburg Mayor Tom Tomzak hope to meet with museum officials to discuss questions about a report the museum released last month on how it spent the $1 million.

"We'd like to accomplish that by the end of the month," Rodenberg said yesterday.

Foster said she is willing to meet with the city officials but they have not yet "found a mutually convenient time."

The question of how much information museum officials must share about how the money was spent has divided City Council, and was the subject of discussion at Tuesday night's council meeting.

The money was given under an "agreement for the provision of governmental services" the city and museum signed in 2002.

While city and museum officials have routinely used the term "loan" to describe that agreement, a memo City Attorney Kathleen Dooley sent the council last month makes it clear that's not an accurate portrayal of the agreement.

Included in that memo is a discussion of the agreement's history.

"The original concept appears to have been a donation from the City to the Museum," Dooley wrote.

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