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Renewed fight over civil war museum comes after Reed's charged

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Jul 15, 2015 2:41 PM
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Photo by Ben Allen/witf

In this 2014 file photo, Harrisburg City Council holds a special meeting at the National Civil War Museum.

(Harrisburg) -- Former Harrisburg Mayor Stephen Reed's arrest has renewed the fight over the future of the National Civil War Museum.

Some of the charges against Reed stem from him allegedly buying artifacts with public money.

And just hours after they became public, current Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse called for the museum's board to dissolve.

On WITF's Smart Talk this morning, city solicitor Neil Grover says enough is enough.

"We have borne the cost, again and again. Could it be a museum for something else? If someone could figure out the formula. But there's a responsibility to take control your assets and maximize them for the people that they have," he says.

Grover adds: "The city owns the land, the city owns the building, the city owns what's in it. And a group of people frankly, who aren't in the city of Harrisburg, are up there as a board, running it."

But Dauphin County Commissioner Jeff Haste says such a move wouldn't be smart.

"I understand maybe his concerns with how it came about. People talk about all different kinds of projects and how they came about. It's clear that that facility is now an asset," counters Haste.

Haste says if Mayor Papenfuse took issue with everything that Reed did, he would have to shut down the popular attraction City Island.

"It's really disheartening," Haste adds.

Papenfuse and Grover say the city will bring legal action if the museum board does not dissolve.

Meanwhile, the board chairman of Harrisburg's National Civil War Museum says it's likely to remain open.

J. Michael Love says the nonprofit that runs the 14-year-old museum has a legal responsibility to keep it open.

He also says the museum annually attracts tens of thousands of visitors, which provides city revenue.

Love says he is against closing the museum under any circumstances.

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Comments: 1

  • Chris Casar img 2015-07-16 03:44

    The National Civil War Museum should really be in Gettysburg, PA or Washington DC where it will get the most exposure to the Public and the Traffic it both needs and deserves situated at one of two major Tourist Destinations of the American people. The National Civil War Museum belongs to and the entire Nation and it should be serving the Nation in Gettysburg or Washing D.C.. Simply put, Harrisburg which is not a major Civil War tourist Destination should absolutely not host this museum nor bear the substantial and primary financial responsibility for maintaining the Grounds of the Civil War Museum in Reservoir Park. The reality is Harrisburg is a far too small financially distressed city to support such an asset; and thus, Harrisburg is in no financial condition to draw away critical funds needed for the community in order to support and subsidize the National Civil War Museum and Grounds which unfortunately does not adequately serve the most urgent needs of its local community, children, students, and adult residents. If the Federal Government, the Commonwealth of PA, and/ or the Smithsonian want to bear the full cost and responsibility or maintaining and supporting such Building and extensive Grounds let it stay. Otherwise, the National Civil War Museum and its artifacts should be moved to Gettysburg or Washington D.C.. Since the Building strategically straddles three local community neighborhoods in Susquehanna Township, Pennbrook Borough, and the city of Harrisburg, it would be ideally located to serve all 3 communities in Dauphin County as a Public Library and Community center. I would close one or two of the smaller auxiliary libraries such as the woefully small but nearby Kline Library, and perhaps even the McCormic Riverfront Library which is not conveniently located or in walking distance of most Harrisburg residents and students. While McCormick is beautiful building made to look historic and older than it actually is. McCormick cannot effectively serve much of Dauphin County nor most of its Harrisburg residents because McCormick simply has no available or free parking for adults and students driving to it from further away. The McCormick Administrative Offices could move to the National Civil War Museum building which does have ample room and plenty parking and which is perfectly situated to conveniently serve a much large swath of the Harrisburg public and also serve a much larger segment of Dauphin County. The New Library located in the formal National Civil War Museum could maintain an emphasis on Civil War History, with books, artifacts, and media all dedicated to the Civil War available for public education and viewing at the Library. A smaller Civil War Museum exhibit could continue to be maintained in the building in exchange with and in collaboration with the National Civil War Museum eventually relocated to Gettysburg or Washington DD which the Museum will get the greater national public exposure and attention it deserves, and the public revenue it needs to thrive on from the far greater Civil War Tourism in Gettysburg or Washington DC. In order for the National Civil War Museum to best serve the American taxpayer and the greater needs of the American people it really needs to deliver its history and message in Gettysburg or Washing DC.

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