Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2008

Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission

September 24, 2008
Workgroup 2 - Signature Events

Speaker Howell welcomed workgroup members and those present at the meeting. He also introduced Dr. Paul Levengood, who will succeed Dr. Charles F. Bryan, Jr., as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Virginia Historical Society in November.

Signature Conference

Carolyn Martin of the University of Richmond offered an overview of the first annual Signature Conference, which will be chaired by UR President, Dr. Edward L. Ayers, and held on Wednesday, April 29, 2009, in the Robins Center. Geared specifically for the general audience, the innovative conference format will find panelists speaking from the perspective of someone living in 1859 - two years before the first gunshots of the Civil War were fired. Four sessions will be offered, each with at least four participants: "Taking Stock of the Nation in 1859," "The Future of Virginia and the South," "Making Sense of John Brown's Raid," and "Predictions for the Election of 1860." Dr. Ayers will moderate and participate in each session, styling discussions on news shows such as "Meet the Press" and "Face the Nation."

Cheryl Jackson demonstrated online registration for the conference, which launched earlier in the week. The conference is free to the public but seating is limited to 2,500, so early registration is encouraged. Partner institutions throughout the state, including museums, parks, and Civil War sites, will be asked to join in publicizing the conference by linking to the website and distributing printed materials. Speaker Howell stressed the importance of such cross-promotion, and urged partner sites to do all they can to help get the word out. In addition, staff was directed to issue an RFP for the conference book sale vendor to Civil War museums in the Richmond area.

John Felton of Central Virginia PBS discussed a proposal for filming and broadcasting the conference that includes live broadcast via C-SPAN and webcasting, development of four stand-alone programs on DVD, a one-hour highlight reel for prime-time broadcast, and e-clips prepared for schools. Speaker Howell asked Mr. Felton to work with PBS affiliates across the country to ensure widespread distribution of the one-hour highlight program. The workgroup indicated its consensus that Central Virginia PBS serve as the vendor for filming and broadcasting the conference.

Dick Holway of UVA Press presented a proposal for publishing the conference proceedings. Since the conference format is unique, Dr. Ayers' recommendation is that an edited transcript of the panel discussions be compiled by a graduate student for publication. In response to questions, Mr. Holway indicated that publication time may take up to one year, although this project could be fast-tracked. The workgroup indicated its consensus that staff work with UVA Press to develop a contract for publication of the proceedings that both supports the conference format and falls in line with the overall conference budget.

Kathy Panoff of the Modlin Center for the Arts discussed a music theatre work that is being commissioned specifically for the sesquicentennial by the University of Richmond, the Virginia Arts Festival and the Virginia Opera. Set to debut in April 2011 at the Virginia Arts Festival, the piece will travel throughout Virginia and to other states during the commemoration. Award-winning composer Ricky Ian Gordon is attached to the project, which has a budget of $300,000 for which private sponsors will be sought. Ms. Panoff asked the Commission to serve as a promotional partner, allowing localities to use micro-grant funding towards the cost of bringing the piece to the area. Speaker Howell invited Ms. Panoff to present her request to the full Commission at its November meeting.

Project Status Updates

Traveling museum exhibition
The Virginia Historical Society (VHS) continues to develop the museum exhibition, “America’s Great Turning Point: The Civil War in Virginia,” which will open in February 2011 and travel throughout the state during the commemoration. Two venue changes have been made to the proposed travel schedule, deleting Fredericksburg and adding Appomattox provisionally. The Commission received a $40,000 planning grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in support of the exhibition and its derivative components, a traveling panel exhibition and a mobile museum.

The Commission has hired Out of Bounds, a mobile marketing company based in Los Angeles, for consultant services in the development of the design of the HistoryMobile as well as the identification of content from the VHS exhibition that can be modified for the mobile museum. The Commission has extended Out of Bounds' contract through January.

Educational film
Production continues on the DVD being produced by Blue Ridge Public Television. At the request of the Commission, Dr. Robertson provided an outline of the eight 20-minute segments: Painful Road to War, First Manassas to Second Manassas, Homefront, Common Soldiers, Antietam to Gettysburg, Personalities, Slow Death of Lee's Army, Legacies of the War.

National kickoff
Plans continue to be developed in cooperation with the state of West Virginia and Harper's Ferry National Historical Park for a media event on June 25, 2009, that will mark the 'national kickoff' of the sesquicentennial.

Sesquicentennial Moments
One of the strongest opportunities of the sesquicentennial is the chance to reach beyond the Civil War buff to also engage the general audience, helping them understand the relevance of events that occurred before, during and after the Civil War. Staff has developed an ongoing series of short essays, Sesquicentennial Moments, which will highlight what was happening in the country 150 years ago. The first two have been written and posted on the website: "Kansas - The Shooting Begins," and "Lincoln-Douglas Debates." A rubric and schedule of suggested topics have been developed; guest authors are welcome.

Likewise, members of the public can connect with experts online through the Commission's website, ww.VirginiaCivilWar.org, submitting questions related to any aspect of the war. Staff will submit the questions to the panel of experts, publishing selected responses. Historians serving on, or closely associated with, the Commission, Advisory Council or one of the workgroups are welcome to serve on the expert panel.

Proposed Schedule
Staff reviewed the proposed schedule of annual themes and conferences. After some discussion, it was suggested that two of the conferences be switched, to alternate a military focus and homefront focus in successive years.

October 15, 2008
Workgroup 1 - Coordination

Chairman Colgan welcomed everyone in attendance including new members of the workgroup and said he was honored to be Chair. He remarked that his district includes Manassas where attention will turn in 2011 as the Civil War sesquicentennial begins in earnest. He said it was the workgroup's job to highlight everything Virginia has to offer as visitors travel during the commemoration. Senator Howell was elected vice chair.

Staff Updates

Ms. Jackson brought Workgroup 1 up-to-date with plans for the inaugural Signature Conference (April 29, 2009). She urged members of the workgroup to take the postcards advertising the event and distribute them widely and stressed the website where people can both register and find out more information about the innovative panelists, including Dr. Ed Ayers who will be speaking of events in 1859 from the historical perspective of someone who was living at that time. The Conference can accommodate an attendance of 2,500.

PBS and CSPAN are interested in broadcasting and there will also be a webcast. Ms. Jackson stressed the need for emphasis on cross-promotion with universities, museums, NPS sites, historical societies and local communities.

Ms. Jackson made note of the traveling museum exhibition, which has been awarded a $40,000 NEH planning grant, and the HistoryMobile, an 18-wheeler $4 million enterprise, which, if undertaken would be a public-private partnership. The educational film is almost finished and will be ready for distribution in the summer. The pilot project for Vodcast and Internet battlefield tours will debut in the summer of 2009.

The national sesquicentennial kick-off is at Harper's Ferry (June 25, 2009). Another planning meeting was held in June. Ms. Jackson said the National Park Service was very cooperative and welcoming and were glad for the Commission to visit. Plans will continue to develop for this media event.

The American Association of State and Local History is taking a coordinating role for states planning for the 150th. So far there are approximately 15 states who join in quarterly conference calls hosted by the Commission to share plans and stimulate discussion.

Staff have held informational briefings with members of the Virginian Congressional delegation including Representative Frank R. Wolf (10th District) who was very supportive and interested in working with the Commission to hold an event in Manassas in 2011. Representative Wolf published remarks commending the Commission in the Congressional Record. Staff also met with Representatives Bobby Scott (3rd District), Virgil Goode (5th District), Thelma Drake (2nd District) and Senator Jim Webb. The members are pleased that Virginia is in the lead among other states.

Ms. Jackson then stressed the importance of statewide partnerships and conferences. The Commission had a presence at the National Conference of State Legislatures and the American Legislative Exchange Council as well as a Virginia One conference for travel and tourism officials. The Commission has also had a presence at the Virginia Association of Museums and Virginia Municipal League annual conferences, as well as Civil War Trails regional meetings.

The Speaker has written twice to counties and cities to urge them to establish local sesquicentennial committees. The Commission needs a contact in each locality and the Commission has authorized micro grants to assist their marketing efforts for the 150th.

Ms. Jackson demonstrated the "Then/Now" interactive map on the Commission's website. Local committees are refining and enhancing the data.

Civil War Trails will be an overlay on the map, as well as museums and historical sites. Local authorities can add to the site and flesh it out with stories and more information.


Joe Maroon and Joe Elton, Virginia State Parks
Joe Maroon, Director, Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) said he was impressed by the plans and wants to work closely with the Commission. The DCR has award-winning state parks and many of the parks hold significant events. Mr. Maroon said Virginia was the first state to do the information kiosks statewide.

Joe Elton, DCR State Parks Director, then showed a video to demonstrate the kiosks that provide both information and entertainment. This will be available on the Internet soon and people can plan their trips accordingly. A calendar of events on the websites and the kiosks is updated monthly. At each kiosk, visitors can print maps and directions. The maps have convenient GPS waypoints.

There is the possibility that the DCR can partner with the Commission to build on this concept with perhaps terrain and other items included.

The DCR video demonstrated their trail videos and noted that travelers were made aware of any barriers on particular trails such as information on how 'rigorous' a particular trail was along with other information on park activities.

Mr. Elton said the technology is 'goof proof' and has been tested by the military in places such as Iraq. He said the look of the kiosks is 'iconic' and people know they can get information 24/7. The virtual tours are very helpful for families.

In response to questions, Mr. Elton mentioned that, at present, there were 34 kiosks with more coming. Some parks need more than one kiosk.

Mr. Elton said the design is done by Imperial Multimedia Group who collaborate with people from Disney and that the kiosks are all component based. They have replacement parts and only a few instances of times when systems were down. The Imperial Group makes the necessary corrections, updates the monthly calendar etc and its staff is extensively trained with the equipment. Many problems can be fixed over the phone. It was mentioned that it put up information in the knowledge that all the information was imperfect in the hope the public would help correct the information. Imperial is responsive and ensures a fast turnaround.

Cost estimated at $20,000 per unit, which is augmented by private funding. This is the first time the DCR has had private advertising and the public has been extremely supportive.

Mr. Elton said that it was possible to integrate the website into the kiosks.

In a response to a question regarding whether or not there is an ongoing agreement for the ongoing updates and maintenance of the system, Mr. Elton said that the five--year contract with Dominion covers it and that there are no extra fees. Mr. Elton also stated that the goal is to have as much information in the kiosks as possible.

Beth Paradis Stern, SVBF
Beth Stern discussed the work that the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historical District (SVBF) is undertaking and stressed it was still a work in progress. It covers eight counties and is a National Heritage Area and the first of its kind in Virginia. The idea is to help protect the battlefields. There is a management plan in place with the aim of obtaining federal funding for preservation work.

Ms. Stern outlined the 'cluster concept' that the SVBF adopted to enhance movement of visitors and location of facilities. Decisions are made by cluster partners. Ms. Stern then demonstrated the orientation center.

Mr. Don Pierce, Civil War Traveler, added that he had been to the Center in Winchester and witnessed people watching the film shown. He said there was standing room only and that the public response was extremely enthusiastic.

Ms. Stern commented that $25,000 was allocated for the Winchester Center.
Mr. Elton then discussed the printing of maps and other material from the kiosks and spoke of the use of thermal paper that lasts longer and also stands up to rain, sun and other elements. There was some initial concern about trash but the kiosks have a recycling initiative built in.


Ms. Jackson noted that this workgroup is an advisory group and the Commission is looking for recommendations on where to place the kiosks. A map of the 13 Welcome Centers was shown. There was discussion about increasing this number but it was mentioned that for some of the older and smaller tourism centers that space may be a problem. There is also the issue of personnel checking on the kiosks. At present, staff check kiosks first thing in the morning. The workgroup looked at the possibility of posting a link on the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation's site to avoid duplication with possible private sector involvement.

Members of the workgroup were tasked with further developing recommendations for placement of kiosks at the Welcome Centers, National Park Service battlefields, State Civil War battlefields and selected sites.

Ms. Donna Purcell, Virginia Department of Transportation, discussed the issue of having graphics depicting the Sesquicentennial on the cover of the state map. Ms. Purcell mentioned feedback that showed that during the celebrations for the Jamestown 400th anniversary people tended to avoid the map that recognized the celebrations as they thought it was a map solely for Jamestown and surrounding areas rather than the whole of Virginia. It was discussed that perhaps a small symbol of the Sesquicentennial be put on the maps to advertise events with the web address.

Ms. Jackson went through the proposed schedule and said the Commission will travel through the Commonwealth for major events from Harpers Ferry through to Manassas.

Micro grants to local committees were discussed that provide for funding of $2500 that can be spent on marketing of events related to the Sesquicentennial. The first grant application should happen in January 2009.

Mr. Scott Harris discussed VAM's Time-Travelers program and the thematic focus on the Sesquicentennial. Funding of $30,000 is proposed per year 2011 - 2015.

Margo Carlock, Virginia Association of Museums, said the program will closely mirror cultural history themes. They have submitted a proposal for a National Endowment for the Humanities grant. Ms. Carlock said she hopes to expand the grant and make it multistate, which in turn will draw more people to Virginia. There are, however, problems with funding for 2009 as they presently have $40,000 but need $70,000. Still waiting to hear about grants though they have a 'Plan B' if the grant bid is not successful. If so, it may well end up as an all website program.

Next Meeting

The next meeting date will be posted on the Commission’s website and the General Assembly website as soon as information is available.

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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