Posts Tagged ‘Civil War’

Civil War Naval Museum Fights for its Fiscal Life

May 28, 2011

"Water Witch" Civil War Ship Replica, National Civil War Naval Museum, Columbus, GA

As I moved among the crowd at the National Civil War Naval Museum rally to “save the museum,” I had to reflect on what I learned in a political science class about budgets. They are more than just numbers on a page; they are political documents because they reflect priorities.

That means that the Port Columbus National Civil War  Naval Museum is way down on Mayor Teresa Tomlinson’s priority list.  A flier being circulated at a rally to “save the museum” says that the proposed city budget cuts funding to the museum by almost 70%, while many other city departments are being asked to cut only 2%.  The flier indicates the museum may have to close if the budget proposal passes unchanged. That 70 percent cut whittles down the city’s funding of the museum’ from $300,000 to about $78,000.

The museum flier says the facility generates $2, 800,000 in spending by folks who come to Columbus to visit the museum.  State Senator Josh McKoon told me he thought that a $2,800,000 return on a $300,000 investment sounded like a no-brainer to him.  He joined as a member today and encouraged  the public to support the museum, but acknowledged that the state had to cut its $70,000 grant because of the state budget shortfall.

Of course, the state nor the city has to cut funding to the museum. Governor Deal chose to do that, and the city may also choose to slash the museum’s budget.  Those choices simply mean that they value other things more.

When I pointed out to the museum’s Executive Director Bruce Smith that the Columbus Museum is under the Muscogee County School Board, he said, that it is and it gets a million dollars from the school board.  I suggested that maybe the Civil War Naval Museum should also be under the school board, and he replied, ” Teachers would never stand for that,” pointing out that they are facing furloughs.

This discussion also brings up the question of whether tax dollars should be spent on museums.  But then, if you ask that, you would also have ask if tax dollars should fund public education.  Museums are also educational, and as one volunteer told me, there is no stronger or more effective way to teach folks about the history of naval warfare during the Civil War. That’s probably true. It is an impressive facility and I would  hate to see it go.

Advertisements

How We Can All Improve Our Bedside Manner

April 26, 2009
Dr. Brian Wong, The Bedside Project, at Rotary Club of Columbus, Ga (Photo courtesy" Jim Cawthorne, Cmaera 1)

Dr. Brian Wong, The Bedside Project, at Rotary Club of Columbus, Ga (Photo courtesy: Jim Cawthorne, Camera 1)

Our lives are determined by conversations,  what people say to one another,  and the choices people make when deciding on how to respond to another person’s words.  Dr. Brian Wong of the Bedside Project,  brought that home during a talk to to members of the Columbus Rotary Club.  (His appearance was sponsored by St. Francis Hospital.)  It’s the sort of thing that he tells physicians when he is coaching them on how to improve their bedside manner by proper communications.

He used film clips of the movie Gettysburg   to make his point.   Colonel Joshua Chamberlain was faced with dealing with 120 members of the 20th Maine regiment who had mutinied and refused to fight at Gettysburg.  Wong played clips from the movie showing how Chamberlain responded to remarks made by angered mutineers.   He would stop the film and ask the Rotarians to turn to one another and say what they would have said if they had been the colonel,  then he played Colonel Chamberlains response, which was usually the opposite to the first blush immediate reactions by the Rotarians.

Turns out that Chamberlain won the men over by the way he handled the situation. The picked up their muskets and join the famous bayonet charge that defeated Southern troops at Little Round Top.  He did it, according to Dr. Wong by expertly using the space between stimulus and response.  In other words when someone says something to you, that is the stimulus, and the space between that and your response can make a lot of difference. 

Instead of reacting immediately to disrespectful and insubordinate remarks by a spokesman for the mutineers,  he would pause before he spoke,  and then say the opposite of what an immediate, also angry would have been.  It disarmed the mutineers, and he gave a speech – maybe the Hollywood version in the movie had some truth to it, though no one seems to know how much – that inspired all but a few of the men to pick up their muskets again and join in the fight.

The lesson of Dr. Wong, “Use that space before you respond, and, quite often,  it will be the opposite of what you would have said if you had not used it, and the outcome can be much better.”  This is the sort of thing he teaches doctors in inspiring them to improve their relationships with their patients.  I guess it boils down to “look before you leap” and “think before you speak,”  if we put it in terms of well-worn proverbs.

The Witch at Work on Victory Drive

July 21, 2008

  Things are looking up for Port Columbus, the National Civil War Naval Museum. Business is better and is expected to get a lot better, maybe double attendance, which was 22,000 in 2007. And it’s all because of a witch and another museum.

 

  When construction of the National Civil War Naval Museum was started 8 years ago, Columbus business leader Bill Turner advised the museum’s board to put some sort of attraction in front of the museum to catch the public’s attention on Victory Drive. Otherwise, he said, “All people are going to see when they drive by is a brick building.” The advertising potential for the museum is substantial since 30,000 cars a day pass by on Victory Drive. 

 

  Museum Director Bruce Smith said drawings were made for a focus group to react to different attention getters. First of all, a replica of the ironclad CSS Jackson was shown, but people really didn’t know what it was. “But, when we showed them a drawing of the Water Witch, they recognized it as a boat. We knew what we were going to have to do.”

 

Bruce Smith, Port Columbus Director and Water Witch

 

  It took a while, but now it’s getting done. The U.S.S. Water Witch, which is under construction, is far enough along to catch the eye of riders in vehicles on Victory Drive now. The 50 foot smoke stack is up, as well as the masts for the sails and it’s already making a difference. Visitations are up 14 percent over last year.

 

  “When it’s finished and we put the sails up, and smoke starts coming out of the smokestack, and the side paddlewheels turn, they are really going to take notice, and it’s going to dramatically increase attendance. When you add to that the traffic generated by the National Infantry Museum, we believe our attendance will double.”  The Infantry Museum plans to open on March 20, 2009 

 

 

Bruce Smith and Tom Gates

 

  Tom Gates, who was president of the old Confederate Naval Museum for 16 years, and a big supporter of Port Columbus, pointed out that all of the big tourist attractions in this part of Georgia and Alabama are working together with the Columbus Visitors Bureau to promote tours of the area. It will be a matter of all of the attractions cross plugging each other.

 

  The Water Witch went into service in 1852 as a survey boat for the United States Navy. It was used to survey rivers in South America, but became a mail boat, supply ship and blockader in the Civil War. It was captured by Southern sailors, but was later burned to prevent it from falling back into Union hands. Now, you can see a full-sized replica of it under construction in front of Port Columbus on Victory Drive.  

 

  So far, $800,000 has been raised to build the boat, but that’s not enough. To put on finishing touches, like rigging and sails, which will make it a major attraction, another $250,000 has to be raised. Target date for finishing construction is November 11, Veterans Day.

 

  If you would like to see construction progress, click this link. The live video cam is featured on the Port Columbus website.