Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2008

Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission

April 29, 2008

The Commission meeting was held on April 29, 2008, with Speaker William J. Howell as chair. Senator Colgan was elected as vice chair, and he also will serve as chair of Workgroup 1 - Coordination - and as vice chair of the executive committee.


Jennifer Esler

Jennifer Esler welcomed the group and shared information about the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley by presenting a video for the members.

Howard Kittell

Howard Kittell briefed the Commission on the purpose of the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation and its accomplishments since being created by Congress in 1996. The Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation's purpose is to:

  • Protect resources.
  • Provide interpretation and educate the public.
  • Foster tourism and economic development.
  • Create federal and local partnerships.
  • Create a new national park.

Eula Moore Anderson, DMV

Eula Anderson of DMV reported that the license plate design had been completed, which will include the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War's website address on the bottom and the logo on the left-hand side. The Commission members unanimously approved the design.

The license plate will be available for sale on July 1, 2008. A link to the DMV will be posted on the sesquicentennial website to order the license plate. Revenue from the plate will be disbursed in September or October, annually.

Scott Harris, Past President of the VAM Council

Scott Harris described the Time Travelers Program to the Commission members. Youth receive a passport and take it to museums and historic sites all across Virginia. After they collect six or more stamps, they can earn a certificate of completion signed by Governor Tim Kaine. The Time Travelers Program was created in 1996 through the Virginia History Initiative. The program aims to support historic and cultural resources by increasing visitation and visibility; promote summer learning; and increase tourism revenue in Virginia by promoting multiple museum visits. Mr. Harris indicated that 38% of the 137 sites in the program contain Civil War content.

Mr. Harris also discussed the program's need for funding in order to continue its services. The Virginia Association of Museums (VAM) proposes the Commission fund the Time Travelers Program $30,000 annually for 2009-2015 or a single allocation of $210,000 to be applied over the 2009-2015 period. The Time Travelers Program would then promote the Sesquicentennial on its website and all printed materials, highlight special events, provide incentives to tour Civil War specific sites, and produce special sesquicentennial certificates for the completion of the program.

Discussion was held regarding whether the program would give enough focus to the Sesquicentennial, but noted the importance for the program. The Commission did not act on VAM's request.

Richard Lewis, National Public Relations Manager for the Virginia Tourism Corporation

Upon request of the Chairman, the Virginia Tourism Corporation developed a strategic marketing plan for the Sesquicentennial. Civil War tourism is already high in Virginia and Civil War tourists tend to stay longer and spend more than average visitors. However, challenges remain, including: (i) better-known battlefields in other states; (ii) overall, the number of visitors to historic sites is declining; and (iii) the abundance of Civil War destinations in Virginia that may present confusion to visitors.

Richard Lewis presented the message of the Sesquicentennial as one that states American life - the very structure and evolution of our society - can be traced to the Civil War. So much of what America is today can be traced to the effects of the Civil War and, now more than ever, Americans are poised to discover how learning about it has an impact upon how they view their democracy and society. Virginia was the epicenter of the most pivotal event in American history; the stories of the enormous sacrifices, the tragedy, the triumph and the legacy are all told here - and everyone should hear those stories. Therefore, the goal of the marketing plan is to raise awareness of Virginia as a Civil War tourism destination and position Virginia as a top-choice prior to and during the Sesquicentennial.

The marketing plan will begin with research and will integrate tactics such as public relations, advertising, targeted email, sales, special promotions, international marketing, community outreach and support, and resources of the Virginia Tourism Corporation and Virginia Film Office. An estimated budget for the marketing plan throughout the Sesquicentennial is $8,246,500. There was a motion by Dr. James Robertson to allocate funds to the Virginia Tourism Corporation for 2008 ($30,000) and 2009 ($25,000). The motion was agreed to by the Commission. Delegate Lingamfelter suggested the Virginia Tourism Corporation collaborate with Pennsylvania to market Virginia as a precursor to Gettysburg and capture the two million people that travel there.

Staff Reports

Danielle Watkins
Daniel Watkins briefly informed the Commission on current development activities. The NEH grant proposal in support of the museum exhibition and its traveling components, including the HistoryMobile, was submitted in January and is currently under review. The Commission continues to work with the VHS to develop the museum exhibition that will serve as the foundation for the traveling components. An implementation grant proposal will be submitted in January 2009 requesting support of up to $1 million for these projects. Final notification on this request will come in August 2009.

A grant proposal was submitted to the Richard S. Reynolds Foundation for support of the Signature Conference series, law symposium and the website. Dominion has expressed interest in supporting the visitor kiosk program based on its very successful support and feedback of the kiosks within Virginia state parks, and Phillip Morris, Bank of America and S & M Brands have expressed general support and Ms. Watkins will continue to follow these proposals.

Cheryl Jackson
Cheryl Jackson introduced Tomi Dechant and Mike Shuman, who are new support staff for the Commission. She also discussed a schedule for upcoming meetings.

Senate Finance Committee Report

Dick Hickman
Dick Hickman informed the Commission that $2.17 million of the general fund has been appropriated for the Commission for 2009 and 2010. He also noted that $5 million from the general fund has been appropriated at two-to-one matching rate for Civil War battlefield preservation.

Mr. Hickman has finished drafting the first "Sesquicentennial Moments" article, entitled Kansas, 1854-1858. These notes are intended to highlight the state of the country related to the Civil War 150 years ago. The "Sesquicentennial Moments" will be put on the website as an educational resource for visitors. Mr. Hickman will continue writing the pieces, but encouraged members and staff to take part, as well. Delegate Lingamfelter suggested taking the articles and using them as lecture series. The lecture series could also be used as a fundraiser for the Commission.

Programs Reports

The 501(c)(3) Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War foundation has filed the necessary forms and the Foundation is waiting to hear back from the IRS. The Foundation has been incorporated with the SCC as a nonprofit corporation, distinct from the Commission and the adopted bylaws are currently under review. The initial board had its first meeting in April and developed a list of candidates for board members.

There are currently 39 local sesquicentennial committees. Staff members have met with many of these local committees and regional meetings are also being developed. The committees are most excited about the DVD, the HistoryMobile, and the possibility of a grant program. Commission members were provided a list of the localities in their district and were encouraged to reach out to those who have not responded to the Speaker’s letter mailed last September.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is also being drafted for the Commission’s approval to protect the Commission’s logo. It has also been suggested that the local committees be used as the first line of review for any group that wants to associate itself with the Commission by use of the logo and would have the right to refuse anyone. A motion was made by Delegate A. Howell for staff to draft an MOU. This motion was seconded by Senator Colgan and agreed to by the Commission.

Cheryl Jackson briefly demonstrated the “Then/Now” interactive map on the website and informed the Commission that the maps rely heavily on the local committees to provide the descriptions/history. A demonstration on the computer will be done at the next meeting.

For the first Signature Conference, Dr. Edward Ayers has proposed a fresh perspective and challenged attendees to forget that they know how history turns out while discussing recent events and what effect they may have, limiting themselves to what was known in 1859. A transcript of the conference will also be published. Delegate Lingamfelter made a motion to approve Dr. Ayers’ conference proposal, which was seconded by Dr. Robertson. The Commission unanimously passed the motion.

Other Business

The Commission has received responses from 15 institutions of higher education, offering support for meetings, tours or conferences. Speaker Howell sent a letter to each college and university in December. The Commission will discuss this item further and make decisions at the June meeting.

The Commission, after funding the DVD project, paying its first installment to VHS, and paying the first two years of the strategic marketing plan from VTC, has a fund balance slightly over
$1 million. Discussion was held as to how to allocate the remaining funds. Dr. Robertson motioned to appropriate $10,000 for the Internet battlefield tours project, which will be matched by CWPT, $100,000 to fund micro-grants for localities, and $750,000 to VHS to be applied to the remaining balance owed by the Commission. Senator Colgan seconded the motion and the Commission unanimously approved the motion.

Dr. Robertson gave a status report on the DVD, which is aimed at 8th graders. He has written all nine scripts. Blue Ridge Public Television has purchased high definition cameras and filming will begin late in April at major Civil War sites, including Manassas, Harper’s Ferry, and Antietam. Theme music selected for the DVD is “Shenandoah,” performed by Bobby Horton. The DVD is scheduled for completion in August 2009, but Dr. Robertson is hoping that it will be finished in June or July so that it can be previewed. Members of the Executive Committee requested notification prior to the beginning of postproduction for donor recognition.

The Hon. William J. Howell

For information, contact:
Cheryl Jackson, Brenda Edwards, Danielle Watkins, DLS Staff

Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2008

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