The 100th anniversary of the
War Between The States Civil War was, unsurprisingly, a Big Deal in Richmond. One of the ways in which it was celebrated was by building a special temporary museum downtown, the Virginial Centennial Center, and, as a schoolkid, I was taken there on a field trip.
I don’t remember many of the details, though I’m pretty sure that the exhibits slanted towards The Lost Cause view of the war; I do remember that they had some interesting dioramas portraying key battles, with moving lights and other high-tech 1960s effects.
The Centennial Center closed in 1965, though the building still remains (though it’s due to be demolished soon). But now there are two Civil War museums side-by-side in downtown Richmond, next to the James River and Kanawha Canal. One is part of the Richmond National Battlefield Park; the other, The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar, is run by a private foundation. They share a parking lot, which is convenient.
We went to the Park Visitor Center first, picked up a virtual geocache, watched the movie, and poked around a little before walking down to Shockoe Slip for lunch and a real cache. Then we walked back and visited the American Civil War Center, before returning the the Park Visitor Center to finish the day.
Both museums were better than what I remember of the Centennial Dome, but if I only had had time for one, I’d go to the Park Visitor Center. It told the full story, with much less repetition, and with fewer noisy displays. And it was free. I don’t mind having gone to the Civil War Center, but one visit there was enough (they do, however, validate parking!).