Marshall Foundation To Close Museum

Marshall Foundation To Close Museum

THE MUSEUM at the Marshall Foundation, which was renovated in the mid-2000s, has long been one of Lexington’s tourist attractions. With its closing to the general public, some of its artifacts will be transferred to other museums.

Marshall Foundation To Close Museum

THE SOLDIER OF PEACE gallery at the Marshall Museum features George C. Marshall’s Nobel Peace Prize and the Marshall funeral display. (photo courtesy of the Marshall Foundation)

Board Focusing On Core Strengths, New Programs

The George C. Marshall Foundation is shifting its strategic focus, and, as part of that shift, has decided to close its museum.

In a letter sent out to Foundation members Friday, President Paul A. Levengood announced that effective immediately, the Foundation would end its museum exhibit program.

The museum, which has been closed to the public during the pandemic, saw 5,600 visitors in 2019. It has been part of the Marshall Foundation since the building was opened in 1964, and underwent a renovation in the mid-2000s.

In an age of limited resources, all nonprofits must carefully consider how they deliver on their missions, said a spokesman for the Foundation. The Foundation’s mission is: “The George C. Marshall Foundation exists to promote the values of selfless service, dedicated effort and strength of character exemplified by Marshall’s life and leadership in war and peace and to inspire new generations to follow his example as they face the challenges of the future.”

To fulfill this commitment, the George C. Marshall Foundation has decided to focus on several core existing strengths and build its capacity in other areas, said Levengood in his letter.

“We are committed to remaining one of the nation’s premiere small research libraries by expanding access to our collections through an ambitious plan to digitize our nearly 400,000 documents written by and to George C. Marshall and his family,” he said.

“We will continue to offer our stimulating Legacy Lecture Series, both in-person, when pandemic conditions allow, and online. We have already launched new digital video and other initiatives that bring the lessons of Marshall’s life to audiences everywhere. We will introduce a new array of member programs to learn more about General Marshall and the era he so influenced.”

Levenwood said that to “inspire new generations to follow his example,” the Foundation is also developing distance learning programs for students that highlight civics, government, leadership, and ethics, all embodied by George C. Marshall.

“To achieve these ambitious plans and steward our resources wisely in these uncertain times,” Levenwood said, “we have made the difficult decision to cease our museum exhibition program, effective immediately.”

He said the Foundation will create a small, permanent display of some of its most significant artifacts that highlight Marshall’s character and leadership. The Foundation plans to make access to this collection available periodically to its supporters, for special tours, and for certain events. All artifacts, he said, will be treated according to the highest standards of the museum profession, including finding appropriate permanent museum homes for those objects that will not remain at the Marshall Foundation.

“The Foundation’s financial situation remains solid; however, the pandemic reminds us that nonprofits must look forward and watch their resources carefully in order to guarantee long-term sustainability,” Levenwood said.

“The Marshall Foundation believes that by tightly focusing our efforts in areas of promoting scholarly research, providing enriching educational opportunities, and offering stimulating public programs, we can ensure that the life and principles of George C. Marshall are made relevant and better understood by a growing audience, both in our nation and abroad,” he continued. “We have never needed his example more.”

The museum had been in danger of closing at the end of 2012 and early 2013 when a plan agreed to by the Foundation’s board and the Virginia Military Institute’s board of visitors would have transferred the building that houses the Foundation and museum to VMI.

Under that plan, the Foundation would have continued to use the back portion of the building but the museum would have closed.

Brian Shaw, the Foundation’s president at the time, said finances played a part in the proposal, noting fundraising challenges and the loss of a lucrative contract to host Air Force ROTC awards in Washington, D.C.

However, the Foundation’s board hit pause on those plans in the summer of 2013, saying at the time that it wanted to “pull back” on the negotiations until the Marshall Papers project was completed. The sevenvolume project to create the written record of Marshall’s life, career and times had started in 1977; it was completed in 2016.

The News-Gazette

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