|Rick DeSpain's drawing of Sultana disaster ( www.DeSpainPrints.com)|
Ten supporters of a plan to raise money for a larger museum focusing on the Sultana maritime disaster have put their money where their dreams are in the form of personal pledges totaling $156,000.
The board of the Sultana Historical Preservation Society in Marion, Ark., recently announced the gesture to further drum up interest and financial support for a modern and permanent venue.
Marion is a bedroom community just a 10-minute drive from Memphis, Tenn., across the Mississippi River. It was the closest town to where the steamboat Sultana exploded and caught fire on April 27, 1865, killing between 1,200 and 1,800 passengers and crew.
Hundreds of Federal soldiers, many recently freed from Confederate prisons, including Andersonville and Cahaba, perished on their way home, a cruel fate after enduring months or years of privation.
Museum director Louis Intres told the Picket in an email this week that the board pledges and another by the city total $656,000.
With building costs, a desired foundation or endowment, and exterior infrastructure, the society is tentatively planning to raise $12 million to $15 million. He said. It recently hired a Little Rock company to lead the campaign, which may officially begin in October.
|Current museum on Washington Street (Courtesy of Gene Salecker)|
“We’ve come a long way,” Intres recently told the Evening Times newspaper. “We’re not looking at just a Sultana museum that is going to bring a few thousand people in. We are actually promoting and designing a museum that will be a national destination site with around 35,000 to 50,000 visitors a year.”
Officials told the Picket the coronavirus pandemic slowed plans for campaign but they continue to look for possible government and grant funding sources as they prepare to launch a national campaign. Television station KAIT reported that the Union Pacific Foundation contributed a $10,000 grant. Officials would like the new venue to open in summer 2023.
Retired judge and society president John Fogleman and Intres said those interested in contributing to the cause should visit the museum website or contact Intres at firstname.lastname@example.org
“The soldiers who were on the Sultana deserve more than a footnote in history and we intend to finally, at long last give them their due,” said Fogleman.