American Civil War Museum official believes history provides context, inspires discussion ahead of Lee statue removal

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — With Mayor Levar Stoney’s call to remove Confederate monuments in Richmond, voices have grown from those who say the monuments represent the history of Virginia.

The American Civil War Museum is dedicated to preserving artifacts and knowledge from Richmond’s past, and museum leaders said that while monuments are important symbols, the community should collectively have a new conversation about what the significance of the statues should be.

Stephanie Arduini, the deputy director of the American Civil War Museum, helped provide some clarity between two of the arguments.

“People have always had really diverse opinions about what the statues meant. History is important to understand so that we can make decisions about our present,” Arduini said. “Larger ongoing conversations about race, and justice, and equality — that’s helping me understand the stories that I tell with people here a lot more.”

Stephanie Arduini, Deputy Director of American Civil War Museum

She also added that there have always been multiple perspectives on the Confederate monuments — with new meanings added to them over time, and this is another time in the monuments’ history when the community is examining and discussing their place in the present and their vision for the future.

“Making a lot of people ask questions about the statues and what people perceive of them today,” Arduini said. “I think one thing that we are hearing with these protests around the country is the amount of frustration and pain and energy around, ‘How can we address these issues that have been in our country for over 400 years?‘ — I think one power that museums have is that we can provide context, we can have conversations. So we can talk about objects and talk about stories that objects represent, but we can also add new questions, we can add scholarship and layers of conversation.”

As the statues are prepared for removal, Arduini also said that there is still an opportunity to learn at the museum — with additional historical information on Richmond’s Confederate monuments available online on a service titled, ‘OnMonumentAve.com.’

“Symbols are important, but its not the end of the work.”

Stephanie Arduini, Deputy Director of American Civil War Museum
Robert E. Lee Monument (2020)

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