GROUP SUBMITS CIVIL WAR LIBRARY AND MUSEUM PROPOSAL TO COURT
HARRISBURG, February 1, 2002 – State Senator Vincent J. Fumo, Rep. James R. Roebuck and the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS) have submitted to Philadelphia Orphans’ Court a ground breaking proposal to keep the historically significant collection of the Civil War Library and Museum (CWLM) in Philadelphia, and to ease the financial pressure that prevents the CWLM board from properly caring for and displaying the artifacts and documents.
The plan was developed by a group of public and private institutions within Pennsylvania. Fumo and Roebuck, both Philadelphia Democrats, and MOLLUS, an organization of Union Officers and their descendants which founded the museum in 1888, submitted it Wednesday to the Court and the CWLM board for approval.
Fumo, Roebuck and MOLLUS became actively involved last February in an effort to prevent the priceless collection now housed in Philadelphia from being transferred to a new museum planned for Richmond, Va. Last March, with their support, the Pennsylvania Attorney General obtained a stay from the court that prevented CWLM from moving any part of its collection outside the city.
"The plan that we have submitted to the court will, I believe, end the grave threat to the existence of the collection," Fumo said. "It will save a historical treasure that belongs to Philadelphia and in Philadelphia."
Fumo praised the work of the parties who created the stewardship proposal – The Abraham Lincoln Foundation of the Union League of Philadelphia, the City of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, The National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, and the Union League of Philadelphia – and said it refutes the claims of current CWLM management that Philadelphia is not a Civil War town.
"The effort exerted by so many people to put this proposal together shows how much they appreciate the role that Philadelphians played in the Civil War, and how much they want to share that historical and cultural knowledge with the general public," Fumo said.
"This proposal represents an important opportunity to develop a more publicly accessible venue for the collection, as well as providing immediate care to protect the integrity of these historically important artifacts," asserted Roebuck. "I urge the Court and the CWLM to join us in supporting this worthwhile effort."
If accepted by the Court and the CWLM board, the proposal would end the litigation related to the future of the collection.
The CWLM, located at 18th and Pine Streets in Philadelphia, is a repository of donated and loaned military artifacts and documents, most of which belonged to Union officers from the city. It includes items from General George Gordon Meade, commander of the Union forces at Gettysburg, and from Presidents Rutherford B. Hayes and Ulysses S. Grant, both of whom were northern generals. In establishing the CWLM, MOLLUS sought to remind future generations of the sacrifice that Philadelphia veterans made in an effort to preserve the Union.
In 1986, MOLLUS turned over operation of the museum to a non-profit board. Since then, the CWLM has consistently been in financial difficulty, which helped prompt the board’s decision to transfer part of the collection out of state. Fumo and Roebuck believe that the financial problems facing the board have prevented it from caring for and displaying the collection in a professional manner. They are also concerned that the collection is at risk of degradation.
"It is particularly gratifying that the regional cultural community has stepped forward to give such generous support – ranging from expert consultation to financial contributions – to this proposal," said James Bennett Straw, President of the Abraham Lincoln Foundation. "We must keep this important part of our heritage where it belongs. Clearly our cultural partners agree."
"As the number of sales of Civil War books suggest, no episode in American history is more central to understanding who we are," said David Moltke-Hansen, president of The Historical Society of Pennsylvania. "Another reason for the Society to join in this effort to save the Civil War Library and Museum is because of its commitment to the City’s and region’s history."
"The proposal that we are offering honors the original wishes and intentions of the donors and serves the public trust by assuring that the collection remains in Philadelphia, and that it is cared for in accordance with the professional standards set forth by the American Association of Museums and the Society of American Archivists," said Brent D. Glass executive director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
The ultimate goal of the plan is to establish two new facilities in Philadelphia, one for the CWLM’s books and archival records at the Union League, and another facility for exhibition of artifacts.
To achieve that, the Stewardship Plan calls for the following steps:
The parties that developed the proposal envision that each of them and MOLLUS will be represented on the Board of Stewards.
"As the founder of the CWLM and the historic caretaker of the collection, MOLLUS is extremely gratified by the tremendous effort and commitment the Stewardship Proposal represents," said Herbert K. Zearfoss of MOLLUS. "It is difficult to imagine a better opportunity to enhance the collection and secure its place in the future of our city and region."
"The organizations that created this plan possess the expertise, credibility and commitment to carry this project through to completion. We feel confident that the plan is in line with the intent of the donors and in the best interest of the CWLM collections, the region, the commonwealth and the public," said George E. Hicks, chief executive officer of the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg.
"The parties who devoted substantial time and effort in crafting this proposal should be congratulated for this accomplishment," said Carol Lawrence, Deputy City Representative, Art and Culture. "The two new facilities will enhance Civil War scholarship in the region, and allow for a broad new array of programs for students and adults to enrich their understanding of Philadelphia’s place in Civil War history."
Fumo, Roebuck, MOLLUS and the other parties expressed hope that the CWLM board would accept the plan, so that work can begin immediately to preserve and strengthen the collection. If the CWLM board declines, the case would proceed in court.