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Old Joe Will Stand Alone

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Old Joe may continue to stand on its own—but where it will stand is still a question.

The Confederate soldier statue’s fate is hanging on a counterproposal from the Matheson History Museum and the Alachua County Board of Commissioners.

Matheson Museum Executive Director Peggy Macdonald said the counterproposal will focus on the three main conditions that the museum will not pay to move, maintain, or oversee the moving of the statue.

“The museum would like to clarify who the point person will be with the county to work with on this issue and who will step up to lead the fundraising efforts,” Macdonald said.

The board offered to donate the statue, located outside of the Alachua County Administration building, to the museum on Sept. 22 in a 3-to-2 vote.

The museum rejected the proposal with a 9-to-2 vote on Oct. 28.

This was due to the amount of responsibility placed on the museum, including the costs of fencing, security, lighting and video equipment and moving the statue. It will cost about $11,000 in private funding to move.

On Feb. 9th, County Commissioner Ken Cornell proposed a new plan to keep Old Joe where it was but to add a statue that honored African-American Union soldiers from the Civil War beside it.

Now, the Matheson will draft a counterproposal. It aims to have it ready for the next county commission meeting on Tuesday at 9 a.m. with a public hearing at 6 p.m.

Macdonald believes it’s best to move Old Joe to the Matheson Museum because it will give the statue context. The museum currently has a controversial exhibit that includes Ku Klux Klan robes and pictures of local lynchings. It has attracted about 200 visitors, Macdonald said. Their curator, Rebecca Fitzsimmons, was able to use these sensitive images as learning tools.

“She has framed those in a way that promotes conversation so that you’re not glorifying the past but rather learning from it,” Macdonald said.

The inscription on the statue refers to Confederate soldiers who counted the costs and paid the martyr’s price for what was right, implying that they fought for the Old South and slavery, Macdonald said.

“The fact that the statue [and its text] is controversial isn’t problematic when it’s placed in the right context,” she said. “I think we’ll continue to have community support.”

County Commissioner Robert Hutchinson came to the museum’s last board meeting along with community activist Faye Williams, Macdonald said. They both expressed their interest in the statue coming to the museum rather than the Veterans Park.

Citizens spoke out on both sides of the issue. Some suggested to sandblast the offensive text off the statue, keep it in front of the office or move it to the Matheson museum.

“Historical things like that, that are potentially racist and offensive, don’t belong on government property,” said Alex Klausner, a Gainesville resident. “They belong in a museum as a relic of the past. Let’s leave it there.”

About Alexa Lightle

Alexa is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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