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Slavery museum fundraising increases
Fundraising up for slavery museum, according to 2005 tax filing

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Date published: 12/21/2006

PDF: 2005 990 tax filing.

PDF: 2004 990 tax filing.

By EDIE GROSS

Though far from its $100 million goal, the U.S. National Slavery Museum raised almost 10 times as much money in 2005 as it did in 2004, according to tax forms filed by the organization.

The museum reported $938,186 in gifts, grants and contributions during fiscal year 2005. It reported raising $97,674 the year before.

The museum's marketing efforts increased in 2005, and it relied on publicity from supportive entertainers such as Bill Cosby and Ben Vereen to get the word out, said spokesman Matt Langan.

"Early in '05, they put their stake in the ground to really drive awareness to the museum itself," he said.

That year's earnings brought to nearly $19 million the amount of public support provided to the museum since 2001. Most of that--$15.8 million--is associated with the 38-acre site in Celebrate Virginia donated by the Silver Cos.

Another $1 million was approved by the Fredericksburg City Council in 2002. That money is being repaid through a special tax district in Celebrate Virginia.

Since July 2005, museum officials have maintained that they have $50 million in cash and pledges toward their $100 million project. The tax form filed with the IRS does not include information on pledges.

Last year's Hurricane Katrina diverted donations from lots of nonprofits outside the devastated areas, including the slavery museum, said Langan. Officials are hoping donors will make good on their pledges in the coming year, he said.

Money raised this summer at the museum's fundraising gala at the Warner Theatre in Washington will be included on the organization's 2006 tax form, known as a 990. Langan said yesterday that the gala donations hadn't been totaled yet.

In September, Cosby, who himself has pledged $1 million toward the project, asked each American to donate $8 to the museum's creation. Since then, Langan said, officials have noticed a "spike" in grass roots giving.

Gov. Tim Kaine has proposed giving $250,000 to the museum in the state's 2007-08 budget. That still must be approved by the House and Senate during next year's session.

The 290,000-square-foot facility is scheduled to open on the banks of the Rappahannock River in Celebrate Virginia by 2008, but museum officials have promised some kind of "soft opening" next year.

Plans for the facility call for a full-size replica of a slave ship, 10 permanent galleries, a 450-seat amphitheater, two libraries, a lecture hall, several classrooms and an outdoor garden featuring sculptures, commemorative walls and tobacco and cotton crops.

The facility has already collected between 5,000 and 6,000 slavery-related artifacts, including furniture, documents, shackles and collars.

The museum also added two new directors to its board in 2005, bringing the total to nine. They are Larry Silver, chief executive officer of the Silver Cos. and John Elkington, CEO of Performa, a Memphis entertainment real-estate development company.

"The ball is definitely moving in the right direction for the museum," Langan said.

ON THE NET: For more information about the U.S. National Slavery Museum, visit usnsm.org. The slavery museum's tax forms for 2004 and 2005 are available on fredericksburg.com

To reach EDIE GROSS:540/374-5428
Email: egross@freelancestar.com