Posts from the ‘Museums’ Category

Northampton Community College celebrates opening of Civil War exhibit

By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times 

A crowd quickly developed around Brian Alnutt as he guided visitors through the Civil War exhibit on loan toNorthampton Community College.

Alnutt is an assistant professor of history at the college and was acting as a docent during the grand opening of “Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War” in the college’s Kopecek Hall.

Northampton is one of 200 sites to be selected to host the free, traveling exhibit, which delves into how President Abraham Lincoln tackled the war’s constitutional and political challenges.

Abraham Lincoln in Illinois at the Lincoln Exhibit (Photo courtesy of the Express Times)

This is the only local showing of the exhibit, which was created by the National Constitution Center and the American Library Association Public Programs Office. It is funded by a National Endowment for the Humanities grant.

It runs until Dec. 13 and dovetails into Northampton’s yearlong educational programming around the Civil War.

Alnutt’s tour of the exhibit began with a small group of four or five people and quickly grew as visitors stopped to hear him share tidbits about Lincoln.

Before becoming president, Lincoln only served one term in the U.S. House of Representatives, he said. Lincoln was not a national political figure but he’d spoken out against slavery so states seceded before his inauguration, Alnutt explained.

More slave states followed but not all seceded, he said, leading to some slave owners fighting against the Confederacy. The states that seceded initially hoped for a peaceful secession but Lincoln fought to preserve the union.

The exhibit explains Lincoln called the secessions undemocratic. If a minority group who lost an election could just break up the government, government by the people could never survive, Lincoln said.

It was only later that Lincoln decided to tackle slavery, Alnutt said, predicting that if the South had fallen quickly slavery may have survived. Alnutt noted that most other countries had abolished slavery by 1861.

“Lincoln” made an appearance at the event. James Hayney wowed a crowd of about 100 people in Lipkin Theater as he assumed the persona of Lincoln, down to the beard and stovepipe hat.

Earlier Thursday morning, a group of fourth- and fifth-graders from Fountain Hill Elementary School and kindergartners from the college’s child care center were treated to time with Hayney. Students clamored to have their photo taken with Lincoln, to shake his hand and even high-five.

Northampton sophomore Claire Mulicka, of Bethlehem, came to the event to earn extra credit for a class. She left touched by Lincoln’s speeches and his determination to finish the fight.

“I thought it was fantastic,” she said of Hayney’s performance.

Hayney, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Lincoln, never missed a beat as he talked about his life as the nation’s 16th president.

Lincoln would’ve retired from politics if not for Illinois Sen. Stephen Douglas’ introduction of the Kansas Nebraska Act, which extended slavery into the new territories by repealing the Missouri Compromise, he said. Lincoln ran for the Senate twice and lost but he gained national recognition debating Douglas on slavery.

Lincoln actually beat Douglas in 1860 to become president. Hayney spoke about the difficulties his Kentuckian wife Mary Todd faced as one of 16 children, whose family was split between the war’s two sides. The Eastern press tore his wife apart, calling her the mole in the White House, Hayney said.

The exhibit is open 1 to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.

Prior to being selected to host the exhibit, Northampton was planning events based on the theme of “The Meaning of Freedom: Civil War 1865 to Today.”

The yearlong events are funded through an endowment built with donations and a separate $800,000 National Endowment for the Humanities challenge grant Northampton was awarded in 2008. The endowment is meant to annually fund humanities-focused educational programs surrounding a theme.



Museum on wheels brings Civil War to Eastern Shore

by the Eastern Shore News

ONANCOCK –Civil War history is on the move in Virginia as its custom 18-wheel Civil War HistoryMobile rolls into the Eastern Shore for a three-day visit Sept. 6-11.

An initiative of the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the Civil War Commission, this walk-through museum on wheels will be at the Barrier Islands Center in Machipongo Sept. 6-8 and at Ker Place Historic House Museum in Onancock Sept. 9-11.

The HistoryMobile’s appearance is part of the “Observations and Disco-veries of the Civil War” events sponsored by the Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society.

The HistoryMobile contains a high-tech imm-ersive experience detailing Virginia’s incomparable place in Civil War history. The exhibits were designed through a partnership between the Fredericks-burg/Spotsylvania National Battlefields Park and the Virginia Historical Society and examine Virginia’s Civil War history from the viewpoints of soldiers, civilians and slaves. The HistoryMobile is also supported by the Virginia Tourism Corporation through which visitors can obtain information on visiting Virginia Civil War sites at the exhibit, as well as by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

Visitors will encounter history in ways they may have never experienced as they are confronted in the Battlefield exhibit by the bewildering sense of chaos experienced by soldiers. The Homefront exhibit calls on visitors to place themselves in the shoes of wartime civilians and make the choices that faced Virginians of those times. The Slavery exhibit looks through the eyes of those who escaped to freedom and those who waited for freedom to come to them. The enduring legacy of the war is presented as a loss/gain scenario that challenges visitors to examine their own perspectives.

More information on the HistoryMobile and the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the Civil War Commission can be found at http://www.virginiacivil For information on visiting Civil War sites throughout Virginia go to

Actor, studio founder Tim Reid named to board of Virginia Civil War center

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar has added some star power to its board.

The Richmond attraction says Norfolk native Tim Reid is among four new members named to its board.

Tim Reid as "Venus Flytrap" on WKRP in Cincinnati

Reid is probably best known for his role as “Venus Flytrap” on the 1970s television show “WKRP in Cincinnati.” Since then, he and his wife, Daphne Maxell Reid, have founded their own production studio, New Millennium Studios in Petersburg, where they produce films, TV series and other entertainment.

Reid joins on the Tredegar board architect Rachel O. Flynn, urban planner Anne Joline Wilkes and Richmond attorney O. Randolph “Randy” Rollins.

Tredegar is located along the James River in Richmond. It strives to interpret the Civil War from three perspectives: Union, Confederate and African American.

Exec. director of National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Md. is myth-buster, works on shows

STAN GOLDBERG  The Frederick News-Post

FREDERICK, Md. — Actress Ashley Judd learned the truth about her great-great-great-grandfather from George Wunderlich, executive director of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick.

Ashley Judd

She thought her ancestor had lost a leg as a Union soldier in the Civil War.

“He supposedly lost his leg at the prison camp in Andersonville, that’s all that she knew,” said Wunderlich. “What we found out was that he never was a prisoner of war in Andersonville, Ga. He lost the leg in the Battle of Saltville, Va.”

The information came to light when the two were working on “Who Do You Think You Are,” an NBC television series that traces the genealogy of celebrities such as Judd. Wunderlich was doing research for the program.

He showed her how her ancestor would have been treated and what would have happened to him after surgery.

“She was shocked when she heard how the leg was amputated and what conditions were like in the hospital,” said Wunderlich, 48. “She got rather emotional. At one point on the camera she teared up, which was … something I did not expect.”

Wunderlich began working with history-related TV programs in 1999. He and a group of people who work with him try to find out the truth about history, mostly from the 1800s.

“It’s a bit like a 19th-century myth-buster,” he said.

Wunderlich also serves as a commentator, although he rarely sees himself on television because he hasn’t owned a TV for 12 years.

He has done 17 shows over the past 2 1/2 years. Among the shows he’s worked on are “The Real Cowboys” and “Battlefield Detectives” for the History Channel, “Who Do You Think You Are” for NBC, “The History Detectives” for PBS and a tourism program for the BBC.

“I consider myself an historical windbag,” he said.

It started with his interest in banjos. Then he became interested in ballistics and medical history. Now he’s delving into more general history. His main area of expertise is from the 1830s to the 1890s.

“It’s kind of expanded expeditiously since I first started doing this back in the 1990s,” he said. “I’ve gotten a reputation for being a fairly easy person to work with. People know that I’m not a pain. People see me on film, evidently like what I did and will ask me to do different things.”

When he provides commentary he might be on the air two or three minutes for one show, much longer for another. He finds being on TV is good for the museum.

George Wunderlich speaks to a class at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Md.

“Every time I’ve done a show, people arrive at the front desk (at the museum) and say, ‘We just saw your director on television and we want to see the museum,'” he said. “It brings tourists to Frederick and it helps keep our museum in the public eye.”

The exposure has also given him a public face, which has led to lecture engagements at universities throughout the country.

Many of the programs in which he is involved are filmed in Frederick County.

“If you saw the show and you see me at a gun range, the chances are very good it was the Frederick city police gun range,” he said.

And Judd isn’t the only celebrity he’s worked with. He did another “Who Do You Think You Are” episode with Brooke Shields about her Civil War ancestor. Unfortunately, his part never aired. They found out she was related to King Louis XIV of France and aired that instead.

“It was awesome meeting her,” Wunderlich said. “She was the teen heartthrob of my generation. So getting to spend an afternoon with her was quite an experience.”

Wunderlich had his first TV exposure in 1999, one year before he became the National Museum of Civil War Medicine’s director of education and three years before he became its executive director.

He was invited to appear on PBS’ “The Woodwright’s Shop” with host Roy Underhill because he had been making banjos — mostly in the style of the 19th century — since 1992.

“I was scared to death at first, but he really put me at ease,” he said. “In that show, I was actually building banjos and, at that time, it was something I could practically do in my sleep.”

From there he appeared on “History Detectives.” Soon, other offers started coming in.

He works with a research group from the museum — including his top researcher, Terry Reimer, director of research for the museum. The group will examine the smallest details. They once did a ballistic test on a ham to help determine if a cowboy was shot with a soft-tipped arrow or a rifle.

“We provide research and fact-checking and story line recommendations,” he said. “They come to me and say, ‘We are thinking of doing a show like this. What is your professional opinion?'”

His favorite show was “The Real Lonesome Dove,” on the History Channel. He spent many days in New Mexico following the exploits of Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving, friends and cattle ranchers of the American West. He researched the type of coffin used when Goodnight brought Loving’s body back to Texas.

“He got a coffin made out of tin and soldered it closed,” Wunderlich said. “Then he put the coffin in a wooden box filled with charcoal to absorb any fluids that might come out of the body. We even put a jack rabbit in a coffin and surrounded it with ash to see if it would work.”

He still plays the banjo and put on a conference about the history of the banjo. But now he’s developed more interests.

“I tend to like all history, even if it’s something that is not my normal study,” he said. “It’s fun when I prepare for those shows to do the historical research. I’ve come from being primarily a banjo guy to being a medicine, ballistics, Civil War, history guy.”

Civil War buffs to re-enact 1st U.S. spy balloon’s flight

By Dan Vergano, USA TODAY

Prof. Lowe ascending in the Intrepid to observe the Battle of Fair Oaks. Photo by Matthew Brady

Civil War memories take an aerial turn Saturday, with a 150-year-anniversary celebration of the birth of the U.S. Balloon Corps on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Outside the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air andSpace Museum, curators and actors will re-create the first moments of balloonist Thaddeus Lowe’s storied ascent to 500 feet. From this perch in June of 1861, Lowe telegraphed to President Lincoln a description of the Army camps then surrounding the nation’s capital in the first months of the Civil War.

“He could see for 25 miles in every direction,” says senior aeronautics curator Tom Crouch. “President Lincoln was fascinated and very enthusiastic.”

It turns out Lincoln’s support was critical. Lowe, a private citizen, struggled for weeks to get an appointment with the War Department, finally needing a letter from the president just to get his idea off the ground.

Lowe’s 1861 flight was the start of the U.S. military’s era of aerial reconnaissance, although the wartime record of his civilian balloon corps was decidedly mixed, returning sketchy intelligence from early battlefields. It was disbanded by 1863.

Even so, the ascent proved an apt symbol of the technological times that dominated the Civil War era, experts say, the first mass war dominated by railroads, factories, telegraphs and other industrial age innovations such as submarines and ironclad ships.

“Balloons kind of brought together a lot of the elements — telegraph, photography, logistics — that were emerging in warfare at the time,” says historian Tim McNeese of York (Neb.) College, co-author of Technology and the Civil War.

The most important technology of the war was the Minié ball rifled-musket bullet, which caused about 85% of the war’s roughly 212,000 battle deaths. McNeese said the Civil War was particularly deadly precisely because such technologies being used widely on a battlefield for the first time.

Although some European armies had flirted earlier with ballooons, the use of Civil War aerial observers did have one historical effect, Crouch notes: One of Lowe’s discharged balloonists gave a balloon ride to a wartime observer from Germany that year, Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin.

“Zeppelin always credited that ride with his idea for a moveable balloon,” Crouch says. Fifty years later, the Zeppelin airships he imagined ranged over Europe in World War I.

At the Mall celebration, the recreated 1861 balloon will stay on the ground to comply with U.S. Park Service regulations designed to keep the airspace safe over the capital, but viewers will be able to see televised views of the vista that Lowe sought, as captured from construction site balloons nearby. Re-enactors will bring in a restored coal gas wagon, used to fill wartime ballooons, and the museum will feature related exhibits.

“For an air and space museum, it’s a remarkable anniversary,” Crouch says.

McCook House Civil War Museum to reopen after major renovation

From the – Minerva, Ohio

The Ohio Historical Society’s McCook House Civil War Museum, in Carrollton, will reopen Friday through Saturday, May 20-22, after undergoing more than a $500,000 renovation.

The 1837 Federal-style brick house was built by Daniel McCook who, along with his eight sons, brothers George and John, and six nephews, served to preserve the Union. The family became known as the “Fighting McCooks,” because of their combined military service.

The historic house, one of 58 Ohio Historical Society’s sites, was in major need of structural repairs. The work included exterior wall repair, interior floor bracing, a complete interior refurbishing, and a new heating system. Displays in the house consist of Civil War relics relating to the story of each McCook family member, along with completely furnished rooms and local historic memorabilia. A major highlight of the reopening will be the return from Columbus from permanent display of Daniel McCook’s Henry Rifle.

As part of the reopening celebration, there will be a Civil-War encampment on both Saturday and Sunday. A full day of activities will begin Saturday with opening ceremonies at 9 a.m. In attendance will be Ohio Historical Society’s Board President Richard Prasse and Director Burt Logan.

Following that, re-enactors will put on day-long demonstrations until 5 p.m. Sunday morning will begin at 10 a.m. with a “period-dress” parade in front of the house, followed by a church service at 10:45 a.m. at the First United Methodist Church. The re-enactors will be doing demonstrations and talking with visitors until 3 p.m. on Sunday.

Amy Rutledge, director of the Carroll County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, said, “We using the commemoration of the Civil War 150 to bring more awareness to the McCook House and let the public know what it has to offer.”

For this weekend only, admission to the refurbished McCook House will be by donation. The re-enactment events are free and open to the public. The house is located at the top of Public Square in Carrollton.

Regular hours for the McCook House are Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday, 1-5 p.m. The museum is operated by the Carroll County Historical Society through an agreement with the Ohio Historical Society. For information about the McCook House, call 800-600-7172.

The schedule for a “Small Town Goes to War” Civil-War re-enactment are:

Saturday, May 21

9 a.m. – Opening ceremonies. Local and state officials will speak, including Burt Logan, executive director of the Ohio Historical Society. A prayer will be offered.

9:30 a.m.-Noon – Re-enactment of the Southern secession and Northern “Call to Arms”.

Noon – President Abraham Lincoln will recite the roll of honor.

Afternoon demonstrations include Gatling gun; Union- and Confederate-company drills and presentations, combined firing drills, and various artillery demonstrations.

Sunday, May 22

10 a.m. – “Period-dress” parade in front of the McCook House.

10:45 a.m. -Church services, First United Methodist Church, corner of South Lisbon Street and Third Street, SE.

Afternoon demonstrations include company drills, various artillery demonstrations, and camp life.

Civil War stories on display at Henry Ford Museum

RoNeisha Mullen/The Detroit News

The Henry Ford Museum is offering an extensive look at the Civil War beginning Saturday through Sept. 5. A preview will be Thursday. (David Coates/The Detroit News)

Dearborn— Booming cannons shattered the still of morning just before sunrise on April 12, 1861. Southern Confederate forces had unleashed a barrage of fire against the Union-held Fort Sumter in Charleston, S.C.

The Civil War had begun.

Now, 150 years later, the Henry Ford Museum will commemorate the historic event with its “Discovering the Civil War” gallery.

The extensive exhibit is composed of letters, photos, petitions, receipts and artifacts from the Civil War holdings of the National Archives.

The 6,000-square-foot gallery features touch-screen interactives, enlarged copies of documents and videos.

A preview of the exhibit will be Thursday. The gallery opens to the public Saturday and runs through Sept. 5.

Among the artifacts will be the original Emancipation Proclamation.

Issued by President Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of the bloody Civil War, the emancipation declared all persons held as slaves were free.

The document, a landmark in American history, will on display at the museum from June 20-22. Until it arrives, a replica will hold its place.

The Henry Ford will stay open around the clock and offer free admission while the document is on display.

“We’re expecting a healthy visitation,” said Brian Egen, special programs manager at the museum. “This is a unique experience for us. We’re treating it like a vigil.”

Performers will read the document at the top of each hour, while actors re-enact battles and scenes from the war.

In addition, the original copy of the final 13th Amendment will be on display next to the Emancipation Proclamation.

Ratified by the states on Dec. 6, 1865, the 13th Amendment formally abolished slavery.

Passing over the traditional chronological approach, the exhibit tells the story of the war in 12 themes.

Within the themes, guests will discover artifacts such as a telegram from a Southern governor rejecting Lincoln’s call for troops, a “substitute book” listing names of men who were paid $300 to replace draftees and the original Louisiana ordinance of secession.

The exhibit will highlight “everyday people of the war,” Egen said.

One panel tells the story of Sarah Emma Edmonds Seelye, a Michigan woman who portrayed herself as a man so she could fight in the war.

Others tell the stories of women on the home front and the experiences of African-Americans in the war.

“A lot of what’s been taught is about the leaders and the battles,” Egen said.

“This exhibit puts a human face on these events that are 150 years old. It brings to the forefront the everyday people of this battle.”

The war ended with the surrender of the Confederates on April 9, 1865, in Virginia.

Carrie Nolan, media relations manager for the museum, said the story of the Civil War is still relevant.

“It was such an instrumental turning point in our history,” Nolan said. “It’s the story of our country.”

(313) 222-2309.

If you go

The Henry Ford Museum is open 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Saturday. Admission is $15 for adults; $14 for seniors and $11 for children ages 5 and older. Children under 4 are free. Entrance to “Discovering the Civil War” is free with admission.
On June 20-22, the museum will exhibit the original Emancipation Proclamation. The museum will be open around the clock and admission will be free while the document is on display.

Free Access to Civil War Documents

If you are currently doing research on the Civil War, whether it be for a school project, professional writing or for genealogical purposes, an important free resource available to diligent researchers is the Civil War Archive at Family Search.

For the Civil War Sesquicentennial, Family Search is making their archive available free-of-charge. Unlike other genealogical tools that cost hundreds of dollars for yearly subscriptions, this one has no charge. Make sure you log on today and get started in your research before time runs out on this offer.

Suffolk museum brings Civil War to life

By Linda McNatt
The Virginian-Pilot

Gae Ward stood next to the man portraying her Civil War husband, the Rev. George Williams, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Main Street.

Ward said she would have been busy 150 years ago – in the ladies aid society, knitting socks for soldiers, making flags or rolling bandages. Her husband, in those first days of May, was preparing to send the boys off to war.

Civil War reenactors march past the Riddick's Folly House Museum in Suffolk, Va., on Saturday May 7, 2011. (Photo by Thomas Slusser/The Virginian-Pilot)

It all happened again Saturday at the Riddick’s Folly house museum, where re-enactment soldiers, the minister, their families and the citizens of Suffolk gathered around.

“Something to this effect would have occurred,” said Fred Taylor, a lawyer and a member of the Tom Smith Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans. “It was the frightening uncertainly of war. The leaders would have met in Richmond and said, ‘We’re rejecting the U.S. Constitution.’ It was a scary, tumultuous time.”

It would’ve been just after Virginia seceded from the Union on April 17, 1861, Taylor said.

On this 21st-century morning, nearly 140 people toured the old home made famous for its Civil War occupancy by the Yankees, said Heather Brinkley, administrative assistant at the Suffolk museum.

The re-enactment was taken from an account of the day in the pages of the Richmond Daily Dispatch.

“Everything is still moving,” the newspaper story read. “For the past week, our town has been a rendezvous for troops, and crowds of eager fellows have bustled among us.”

Saturday in Suffolk, traffic on Main Street was halted for a bit about 1 p.m. so

soldiers in gray and ladies in hooped skirts could walk toward the Seaboard Station Railroad Museum, where the men would have departed.

“The local militia troops would have been organizing and drilling,” Taylor said. “Suffolk was so important because it was a railroad hub, a training ground. If you were between the ages of 18 and 45, you would have been in the local militia. Others joined the army immediately.”

At the station, with the soldiers lined up for roll call, the minister spoke.

“Soldiers! The time for action has probably come,” said Robert Archer, who portrayed the rector at St. Paul’s. “Be cool. Be confident. Be determined.”

This was the first phase of Riddick’s Folly’s Civil War sesquicentennial programs. Chapter two -the occupation of Suffolk and Nansemond County – will be next year, with the siege of Suffolk in 2013. The famine will be re-created the following year, and the reconstruction in May 2015.

About a year after the troops’ departure from Suffolk, Union soldiers moved into Riddick’s Folly and made it their headquarters, Taylor said.

By then, the Riddick family was living in Petersburg.

Linda McNatt, (757) 222-5561,

Bronx’s Civil War record a proud one as museum exhibit shows


The intertwined histories of the Civil War and the Bronx are now playing out in the Museum of Bronx History at the Valentine-Varian House in Norwood.

At the Valentine-Varian House there is an exhibit on the Bronx and the Civil War. The home was built in 1758. Here a museum goer views a display with a union sword. Photo by Richard Harbus, New York Daily News

The exhibit, “The Civil War Comes Home,” features a collection of letters, photographs, sabers, a quilt that kept a Union soldier warm on the battlefield, and other artifacts from the era highlighting war’s impact on the borough.

“People look at the Bronx and see the buildings and real life, but they don’t know the history behind it. But there is so much history [here],” said Angel Hernandez,

Society Educator at The Bronx County Historical Society, which operates the museum.

The exhibit includes a diary kept by William Saward of Morrisania. At age 20, the Union Army soldier was one of the youngest Bronxites to die in the Civil War.

Nearby is a lengthy thank-you letter written in 1863 and sent to Miss Mary Johnson.

The West Farms woman made quilts and sent them off to local soldiers stationed in northern Virginia. Each of the soldiers signed his name.

Among the names is William J. Rasberry, a Union Army soldier, who was one of the first Bronxites to die in the Civil War. The exhibit includes a large rubbing of his headstone, which sits in the Old West Farms Soldiers Cemetery.

The museum’s exhibit is timed to the 150th anniversary of the War Between the States.

“It was important for us to recognize the anniversary because of the influence [the Civil War] had on the Bronx,” Hernandez said. “So many people were proud of our soldiers.”

These are the stories that are so easily lost and forgotten, Hernandez said.

“People have lived here their whole lives and never been here. But once they stop by, they’re amazed,” he said.

“The Civil War Comes Home” curated by Kathleen McAuley, will run through Oct. 2 at the Museum of Bronx History, 3266 Bainbridge Ave. For more information, call (718) 881-8900.

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