The Virginia Historical Society’s Civil War

Today the Virginia Historical Society’s exhibition, An American Turning Point: The Civil War in Virginia, opens to the general public and will run through to the end of the year. I am hoping to make the drive to Richmond to check it out at some point very soon.

An American Turning Point is not a top-down study of battles and generals. Instead, the exhibition engages visitors in the experiences of a representative group of individuals and situations to promote an understanding of the wartime experiences of Virginians, and those who served in Virginia, during the war. The stories of the men, women, and children who struggled to survive Virginia’s Civil War can be are found in the fabric of every uniform, the blade of every sword, the handle of every tool, the imagery of every drawing, the words of every letter, and the notes of every song.

The exhibit also reflects much broader changes since the Civil War Centennial surrounding how Americans have come to remember their Civil War.  I see this exhibit as a crucial link between the work that historians have done over the past few decades and a general public that has shown strong signs of interest in this crucial moment in American history.  Why Did the Civil War Happen? is the subject of the introductory video for the VHS exhibit.  Enjoy.

6 comments… add one

  • Arleigh Birchler Feb 4, 2011

    Good video.

  • Jacob Dinkelaker Feb 4, 2011

    I too hope to have an opportunity to see what looks to be a first-rate exhibit. I applaud the efforts of the society in putting together an exhibition that “engages visitors in the experiences of a representative group of individuals and situations to promote an understanding of the wartime experiences of Virginians, and those who served in Virginia, during the war.”

    Hopefully, through the acts of the various historical societies, state-wide commissions, and other public history institutions, these special exhibits will not only lay out the historical documents and voices of the period, but engage the diverse American public to interact and discuss the war and its causes. Only through the public’s participation can the sesquicentennial ultimately be successful. Exhibits like these, though, are a good place to begin, and like you said, valuable in linking the work of historians to a larger audience.

  • Arleigh Birchler Feb 4, 2011

    Perhaps this post will not be as controversial as the last.

    • Edwin Thompson Feb 5, 2011

      Arleigh – I enjoyed the last post – lots of good comments. Comparing examples of man’s inhumanity to man always makes a good read. We seem to have done it many times.

      Kevin – Another good post. The Virginia Historical Society movie is pretty good. Last year I went to Monticello, and the movie shown at the visitor’s center was good – it presented America’s African slave history and it’s contradictions to the Declaration of Independence. 25 years ago I had visited Monticello, and I don’t recall walking away with a positive impression. It was much more of white wash (no pun intended) on the history of the country and Thomas Jefferson. Little by little we are all getting a much clearer picture as to what happened.

  • Sara B. Bearss Feb 7, 2011

    While you are in Richmond to see the historical society’s exhibition, I hope you will also find time to visit the Library of Virginia’s exhibition on the secession crisis, “Union or Secession: Virginians Decide.” There is also a companion exhibition at the State Capitol Visitor Center, “The Struggle to Decide: Virginia’s Secession Crisis.”

    Because of its age and fragile condition, the signed copy of the Ordinance of Secession with the beautiful calligraphy will be displayed for the public only a couple of times during the
    run of the Library’s exhibition–on 16 April, 28 June, and 25 October. The schedule for other programs and special events may be found here:
    http://www.virginiamemory.com/exhibitions/union_or_secession/programs.pdf

    • Kevin Levin Feb 7, 2011

      Hi Sara,

      Nice to hear from you and thanks for speaking up for the Library of Virginia. At some point I am going to stop in for a tour of the exhibit.

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