MoC Appomattox is Doing Just Fine, Thankyouverymuch.
For all the kerfuffle surrounding the opening of the Museum of the Confederacy’s annex at Appomattox a few months back, attendance seems solid:
“We wanted to open last year,” said Museum of the Confederacy/Appomattox site manager Linda Lipscomb, “but that didn’t happen. Still, I think things are going well for us. We’ve had more than 17,000 visitors so far since the end of March, and we’re very happy about that number. We didn’t really set a goal.” Nevertheless, the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond knew it was taking a chance by establishing a satellite branch. Appomattox’s status as the place where the war ended made it a logical choice. On the other hand, the county really isn’t on the way to anywhere tourists are likely to visit. “We’re a destination,” Lipscomb said. “That’s how we have to look at it.”
It’s benefiting the local business community, too:
Sheila Palamar of the Babcock House Bed & Breakfast in downtown Appomattox would have to agree. Palamar said she has seen a significant spike in both overnight stays and lunch and dinner reservations since the museum opened. “We rented more rooms in June than we ever have in a month,” she said, “and a lot of those people stayed two nights.” This week, she was preparing to happily confront a mini-invasion of her own — 54 Civil War buffs from Salem wanting lunch.
MoC memberships are up, too.
“We’ve added 800 members since we started,” said Lipscomb. “On the day we opened, we offered a special deal for membership, and a lot of people passed on it when they went in. But when they came out, they said, ‘We have to sign up for that membership. We didn’t get a chance to see it all.”
Museums are usually not huge drivers in a local economy; they don’t generally rake in huge piles of cash, and they tend to be very precarious enterprises, from a purely financial point of view. It is a success story when a museum — any museum — can hold its own in terms of attendance and memberships. Seventeen thousand visitors in a period of less than four months, in a (relatively) out-of-the-way place like Appomattox is nothing to sneeze at. If that works out to around 50,000+ visitors annually, that’s a sizable chunk of the 216K people who visit Appomattox Court House NHP each year. I expect, though, that attendance at the MoC annex at Appomattox will increase substantially over the next few years, as we move through the sesquicentennial into 2015. It sounds like the MoC Appomattox is off to a solid start.______________
Image: Jimmy Lipscomb (right) demonstrates loading a musket for visitors (from left) Tammy Smith, Ashton Fowlkes and Hannah Smith at the Museum of the Confederacy in Appomattox, Va., July 18, 2012. Several days a week, Lipscomb greets visitors with a hands-on introduction to life as a soldier in the Civil War. (Photo by Parker Michels-Boyce/The News & Advance)