We had a great time in Richmond today and I couldn’t be prouder of the way my students conducted themselves while at the American Civil War Museum at Tredegar. A few of my students came dressed as tourists which you can see in the photos I took. We spent about 90 minutes walking through the exhibit and discussing its key interpretive points. They thought carefully about how Lincoln is interpreted within the overall narrative while at the same time keeping a sharp focus on the overall interpretive theme of the museum which is to tell the story of the Civil War from Union, Confederate, and African-American perspectives. I used to think that the museum is too small, but today I realized that it is ideal for student groups; within 60 – 90 minutes you can complete the exhibit with a fairly sophisticated understanding of the war years and beyond. What I am most pleased with is that the assignment forced my students to critique the exhibit. Towards the end we gathered in a spot and spent a few minutes sharing observations about the overall effect of the museum. Most of my students were positive, but a few had criticisms about the amount of attention on the Union perspective and the spike-like rods that can be pulled to reveal various statistics and other pieces of information. I am not a big fan of these rods, but I just realized that the sound they emit is something you would have heard in a foundry which is where the exhibit is located. Ilook forward to reading my student’s final papers which will synthesize what they observed at Tredegar with their other reading assignments.
Afterwords we walked over to the Lincoln-Tad monument where we took photographs. In class yesterday we read a few articles about the controversy surrounding the unveiling of the monument back in 2003. It was very difficult for me to impress upon them the emotions that were generated in the days leading up to and on the day of the unveiling. They couldn’t understand why various heritage groups would have a problem with a Lincoln statue in Richmond and they were even less impressed with some of the more outrageous claims made by the Sons of Confederate Veterans and League of the South. I found myself trying to make the best case possible for their view to keep the discussion going. Finally, we headed on over to Hollywood Cemetery for a short walking tour. We focused specifically on the sites off of Confederate Avenue and then walked to President’s Circle to see John Tyler and James Monroe. Today was a perfect day for a field trip and also an wonderful way to top off what has been a challenging and fun semester course.
Click here for additional photographs from the trip.