Poll Questions: The VMFA, the SCV, and the War Memorial Chapel

We have two poll questions for you to consider today.

The first concerns whether you think the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will permit the return of the Confederate battle flag (or any other Confederate flag) to the portico on an ongoing basis when it renews its agreement with the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ camp. This isn’t asking you what the VMFA should do, but what you think it will do.

The second concerns what the SCV should do if the VMFA adheres to its present position concerning the display of these flags. We’ve hear explanations that the SCV’s representatives didn’t know what hit them in 2010, but, whatever you make of those explanations, they no longer apply. Everyone knows the current situation.

Enjoy … the comments section is open.

6 thoughts on “Poll Questions: The VMFA, the SCV, and the War Memorial Chapel

  1. Pat Young March 25, 2015 / 5:35 am

    I wonder how many people visit the chapel each year. Does anyone know?

    If the percentage of total visitors to the VMFA that make the walk over to the chapel is small, as I would imagine, I wonder what incentive the museum would have to even negotiate the issue. I would guess that the museum’s core visitor is not particularly concerned with what, from the visitors’ point of view, is a minor outbuilding whose presence is unrelated to an art museum’s central purpose.

    I have long wondered about the whole flagger strategy around the chapel. The old Robert E. Lee Camp saw all but two of its buildings demolished in the years after the last veteran went to his segregated reward in 1941. In other words, Virginians did not see the Old Soldiers Home as having any more historical significance than most other veterans homes of other wars, which are torn down and paved over every year. Nothing of popular historical importance happened here other than old men getting older and then dying. Such sites are hardly the stuff of Civil War preservation. I can’t recall getting many appeals for funding from the CWT to save an old soldiers’ home.

    The chapel itself is a church without worshipers. Apart from the flaggers, who most likely don’t spend a lot of time in fine arts museums, few contemporary Virginians spend a lot of time planning an outing to the chapel. Among my friends who enjoy civil war tourism, many have sent me postcards from the Museum of the Confederacy, the Jeff Davis House, and the Richmond defenses, but I have never had someone send me pictures of the chapel. Oh, wait, someone sent me a photo of what he described as nutty Confederate flag-carrying protesters.

    If retirement homes were tourist attractions, we’d all be heading to Florida for “The Nursing Home Trail.”

    I am guessing that if the SCV digs in its heels, we may see the chapel downgraded to an exterior-only site.

    • Andy Hall March 25, 2015 / 9:15 am

      I have long wondered about the whole flagger strategy around the chapel.

      I don’t think there is a strategy, or at least not an alternative to “we protest until we win.” While they view themselves as resolute, unyielding and committed to a course of action, I think they fail to recognize that other people — for example, the board of the VMFA — often have those same qualities. After four years of being mocked, vilified, and insulted by the Virginia Flaggers — recall that a criminal court actually ordered one prominent Flagger to stay away from VMFA board members’ private residences — it’s hard to see how the VMFA will be feeling generous or conciliatory toward the heritage crowd when it comes time to set the terms of a new lease for the chapel. And, with the R. E. Lee Camp having accepted the purportedly unacceptable terms of the no-exterior-flags lease in 2010, the VMFA is probably in a stronger position this time around to say, “take it or leave it.”

  2. Eek-A-Mouse March 25, 2015 / 10:46 am

    In my dreams the VMFA will offer the lease to the American Civil War Center instead, as part of some agreement surrounding the forthcoming regional visitor center on grounds. Although the RE Lee Camp has paid the museum for food and space to host catered events inside the VMFA within the past year, so maybe that individual relationship is doing just fine, flagheads/”fire-eaters” having reduced themselves to background noise. .

    • Andy Hall March 25, 2015 / 1:49 pm

      I was hoping they’d offer it to Goad Gatsby. He’s a Confederate descendant, he lives in the area, he has time on weekend, and he could probably help put in a new sound system. He’s the perfect choice, really.

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