DC Tourism Bureau Rejects Civil War Medicine Museum’s Ad Because It Uses a Confederate Flag

DC Tourism Bureau Rejects Civil War Medicine Museum’s Ad Because It Uses a Confederate Flag
Photograph via iStock.

Destination DC, the District’s tourism bureau, says it will no longer include in its annual visitors guide an advertisement from the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland because the museum’s logo includes an image of the Confederate battle flag.

“We have recently received some feedback about your logo—concern about the appearance of [it],” Claire Carlin, Destination DC’s vice president for partnerships and alliances, wrote in a July 14 email to the museum.  “You know the sensitivities around this image.”

The museum’s executive director, David Price, says he does not understand the decision.

“We have never gotten any pushback,” Price tells Washingtonian. He says that the museum has used a nearly identical layout for the last three years in the visitors guide without any reactions to the Confederate flag. “We haven’t gotten any specific feedback from Destination DC,” Price says. “I’m dumbfounded.”

But a statement Tuesday from Destination DC president Elliott Ferguson suggests the tourism bureau is tightening its criteria for advertisements. “We are constantly evaluating how best to promote Washington, DC for visitors and have decided not to include images that can be considered controversial, which includes the Confederate flag and weapons,” the statement reads.

Destination DC is a privately operated, non-profit corporation with a membership of 850 businesses and organizations that support Washington’s travel and tourism industries, according to its website. It is funded in part by a percentage of the District’s hotel occupancy tax, along with membership dues and cooperative marketing fees such as ads that appear in the visitors guide, which lists attractions in the city and the surrounding region. The National Museum of Civil War Medicine is included in the publication’s directory.

In the her correspondence with the museum, Carlin wrote she was not accusing the museum itself of any bad motive. “As I understand your museum, it celebrates the medical achievements of the era—there is nothing discriminatory intended and the flag is used in historic context,” she wrote. She suggested the museum replace with ad with a different image, such as a photo of people enjoying an exhibit. The museum declined to submit an alternative.

Modern displays of the Confederate battle flag have come under renewed criticism in the past year, including state government buildings in South Carolina and Mississippi. The former voted to remove it in 2015 after nine members of an African-American church in a Charleston were shot to death by a gunman with white supremacist views. More recently, state legislators in Mississippi voted to keep flying the banner outside their state capitol.

Last month, the Washington National Cathedral’s board voted unanimously to remove the Confederate flag from two stained glass panes on display in the church. It will replace them with a blank space in a panel that also includes Confederate Civil War generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Work is expected to be completed by the end of summer, according to Kevin Eckstrom, the cathedral’s communications director. The cathedral has not decided if it will ultimately remove the entire two-part panel, Eckstrom said.

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