The second part of the An American Turning Point: The Civil War exhibition, Waging War, is now open at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester, Va. The museum has partnered with the Virginia Historical Society, the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War and Commission and the National Endowment for the Humanities in bringing the traveling exhibition to the Shenandoah Valley.
Waging War follows a Surviving War exhibition, which had been on display in the museum Changing Exhibitions Gallery for much of the first half of 2012. The current show closes on Dec. 2, 2012. Both parts of An American Turning Point: The Civil War bring the Civil War in Virginia to life through displays of authentic artifacts, interactive multimedia panels, coupled with a schedule of related museum programs.
While Surviving War interpreted the burdens that ordinary citizens bore while Virginia was at war, Waging War is all about the lives and battlefield experiences of soldiers and sailors, according to Cory Garman, Exhibitions Manager.
- “It's about the technology,” he says. “And even touching on the living conditions that these men were involved in. One in 14 died of disease during the war.”
The exhibition was coordinated by the Virginia Historical Society's head of program development, Andrew Talkov, who predicts that, as with Surviving War, Waging War will appeal to both serious Civil War buffs and casual museum visitors.
- Civil war firearms, technology, naval warfare, map-making, and the role of immigrants and African Americans in both the Union and Confederate armies are part of the exhibition. Interactive panels are alive with state-of-the art graphics. Each multimedia presentation has its own flair, such as a telegraphy panel that challenges visitors to pit their texting speed against that of a 19th Century telegrapher, who taps out a Morse Code message in 54 seconds.
Following the exhibition about civilian wartime experiences, Waging War is a bit edgier. Many artifacts represent the lives, and in some cases the deaths, of men who experienced the drama and horror of 19th Century warfare.
- “There's a large mural in this exhibition that is designed to give you a sense of what it's like to be in the middle of battle,” Garman says. “It's a reenactment from the Pritchard House, from the Battle of Kernstown. And you stand in this very large mural. It's a lenticular mural. And it sort of moves with you. It has kind of a hollow, graphic feel. You can activate an audio of activity that will play the sounds of war. And so, you hear the horses galloping. You hear the bullets firing. You're in the middle of all that.”
- Along with the 21st Century interactivity and virtualizations, real objects can be seen, such a pocket watch used by Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson during the war, the revolver fired by Maj. Gen. James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart just before he was mortally wounded, and a signed copy of General Order No. 9, the dignified farewell written by Gen. Robert E. Lee to the Army of Northern Virginia on April 10, 1865.
The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley offers plenty for visitors at any time of year. The architecturally-pleasing museum building houses two fine arts galleries, a Shenandoah Valley gallery and the Changing Exhibitions gallery, which is where the American Turning Point exhibition is located. Visitors can wander through the adjoining gardens at the historic Glen Burnie Mansion house (currently closed for renovations).
Waging War exhibition-related programs include a special lecture program featuring Andrew Talkov on Aug. 19, followed by an outdoor screening of the Civil War film, Glory, on Sept. 28. An Oct. 12 Galleries At Night lecture will feature Charlottesville author and historian Rick Britton. The museum's Rose Hill property, the site of the First Battle of Kernstown, offers self-guided walking tours the first and second Tuesdays and third Saturday each month through October.
The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley is located at 901 Amherst St. and is open year-round, Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Museum admission includes the gardens and is free to museum association Members and children ages 12 and under. All others are admitted for $10, or $8 for seniors and youth. Admission is free to all on Wednesday from 10 a.m. until noon. Additional information is available at www.ShenandoahMuseum.org or by calling 540-662-1473, ext. 235.
Stonewall Jackson pocket watch photo is courtesy of the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. All other photos by Hank Zimmerman and those and the story are copyright ©2012 by Shenandoah Valley Productions LLC