New Exhibit Shows Variety of Civil War Collections
Collecting the Civil War, a new Manassas Museum exhibit opening on June 29, will explore the sheer range of Civil War artifacts in private and museum collections, and will offer visitors the chance to see unusual items from the era.
Mary Helen Dellinger, the museum’s curator, acknowledges that many Civil War artifacts like bullets and belt buckles may be familiar to many. What makes this exhibit unusual, Dellinger says, is its emphasis on a variety of unusual items from a number of collections.
“This exhibit will show just a small slice of what’s collected from the war, whether they are military supplies, or family heirlooms or modern-day art.”
Dellinger credits the generosity of private collectors David Goetz and Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Leigh, Jr., The Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond and The Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center with providing depth to the exhibit’s artifacts.
A number of items from the museum’s own collection, some that have never been displayed, are also included in the exhibit. The Museum of the Confederacy has loaned a pair of spurs once worn by Confederate Civil War legend General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. Another spur, belonging to an unknown soldier and found in recent years by Olde Towne Landscaping Company president Mark Olsen, shows that Civil War artifacts are still being found in the area.
Some collectors are drawn to the personal effects of Civil War soldiers and their families. “Some of these artifacts tell the story of the men and what they carried,” Dellinger says. “People may be fascinated by decks of cards or Bibles or photographs, and begin collecting that item.”
Dominoes and playing cards, a book of poetry once belonging to Confederate Colonel John S. Mosby, an original copy of The Patriot’s Hymn Book, a Jew’s harp, a pocket calendar, and a lantern are some of the personal effects that are part of the exhibit.
Other collectors are drawn to military items and weapons. One of the artifacts on display will be a rare.58 caliber rifled musket produced at the Richmond Armory, using machines and parts captured from the arsenal at Harpers Ferry. The Richmond Armory manufactured the largest number of Confederate arms during the War.
One of Dellinger’s favorite exhibit artifacts is a spoon and wreath buckle with belt, featuring the seal of the Virginia state flag. Despite working with Civil War-era artifacts during her many years as a curator, Dellinger says she has not lost the thrill she gets from handling pieces of the collection.
“Each artifact from that time period tells someone’s story but it is also a piece of our nation’s history,” Dellinger says.
Collecting the Civil War runs through October 28 and is included with admission.