New Civil War Exhibitions

Both the Library of Virginia and the Virginia Historical Society are featuring exhibitions that examine new and interesting perspectives on the Civil War.

The Virginia Historical Society show is An American Turning Point: The Civil War in Virginia. This 3,000-square-foot show features more than 200 objects and 17 state-of-the-art audiovisual programs. Opening February 4 and running through December 30, An American Turning Point uses the experiences of Virginia’s men, women and children to promote an understanding of those who struggled to survive the American Civil War. Their stories are revealed 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 exhibition encourages visitors to consider how a single event, separated from us by 150 years, can influence and address the questions of today: what was gained, what was lost, what was undecided, and what is left for us to resolve?

The VHS, located at 428 N Boulevard, also recently announced that they will be open on Mondays, beginning in February. This decision is part of their ongoing mission to expand accessibility; last year they decided to offer free admission. The museum and shop are open Monday-Saturday from 10-5, and Sundays from 1-5. Their library is open Monday-Saturday 10-5. Call 358-4901 for more information.

On December 6, The Struggle to Decide: Virginia’s Secession Crisis opened at The Library of Virginia. In the aftermath of the election of Abraham Lincoln as US president in 1860, and the beginning of the secession crisis in December 1860, Virginia had a fateful choice to make: would it remain in, or secede from, the United Sates of America? In Virginia, the General Assembly called for a state convention to act for Virginia during the crisis. Meeting in February 1861, the 152 men elected to the convention faced the terrible task of deciding the fate of Virginia, and perhaps the nation. The Struggle to Decide exhibition examines the actions taken by convention delegates and the governor that had a profound effect on Richmond and the Virginia State Capitol.

Running in conjunction with The Struggle to Decide is a second exhibition at the Library: Union or Secession: Virginians Decide. Virginia was central to American identity for its role in the founding off the United States and its political principles. Both the Confederacy and the Union wanted to claim Virginia’s historical legacy. Union or Secession explores what Virginians thought and debated as the crisis unfolded. Through letters, journals, newspapers, official documents and correspondence, and maps and broadsides (the vast majority of these items from the Library’s incomparable collections), Union or Secession offers insight into the complex and conflicting geographic, cultural, economic, and political factors that faced Virginians in 1860 and early 1861. The exhibition shows that Virginians’ choice on the question of secession was far from certain as dramatic moves were being made outside the state.
The Library of Virginia is located at 800 East Broad Street, has underground on-site parking, and is open Monday-Saturday from 8–5 and Sunday 1-5. These exhibitions run till December 6.

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