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National Civil War Museum Photo Essay

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National Civil War Museum Photo Essay - Page Text Content

FC: The National Civil War Museum Harrisburg, PA

1: With an emphasis on the human side of this major historic conflict, the National Civil War Museum tells the story of battles, slavery, military life, the home front, and politics, through the eyes of the men, women, and children who lived through it. Poignant and thought-provoking, the exhibits feature comprehensive collections of objects interspersed with interactives and videos, representing the lives of these individuals. On the cover: Exterior of building. The Facilities Manager and staff are the main individuals responsible for, "maintaining and improving the museum's building and property" (Schlatter, 2008, p. 100).

2: This Museum Shop functions as both the gift shop and Visitor Services. The individual at the front desk was helpful and courteous, traits of an excellent guest services employee. You can also purchase a museum membership here.

3: Below: The Museum Galleries entrance. On the right is a banner advertising the museum as a space for special events such as weddings, a product of the marketing staff. The galleries themselves are the work of a collaboration of professionals: the curator, collections staff, conservator, exhibit designers, archivist, registrar, and exhibition and lighting staff.

5: The Weapons and Equipment gallery shows artifacts from both the North and South. Curators and/or collections staff would have been responsible for choosing the artifacts, and along with the exhibit designers and exhibition staff, would have chosen how to arrange the exhibit contents and layout. The registrar would have been responsible for acquiring and accessioning the objects, analyzing their conditions, making sure they were properly cared for in storage, and updating their location status after being put on exhibit (Glaser & Zenetou, 1996). The registrar is also responsible for the legal paperwork associated with any loans. If any of the objects needed conservation work, the registrar or curator would have contacted the conservator. The exhibit designers, and exhibition and lighting staff, would have decided on the track lighting seen on the ceiling, as well as positioned each bulb to light the cases appropriately. Facilities is responsible for maintaining the lighting in terms of replacing bulbs and fixing any issues with wiring. Exhibit installation responsibilities likely fell mainly on curatorial staff, with the aid of facilities.

6: These photos represent facilities' care of the museum galleries. The exit signs are clearly marked and lead the visitor out of the current gallery. An emergency door is marked in the right of the top photograph. The bottom photograph shows a fire alarm, as well as a programmable thermostat to control temperature in the galleries.

7: This is a McClellan saddle, the regulation U.S. Army saddle during the Civil War (information taken from object ID label). This is a good representation of the work of many professionals, including the curator and registrar. The special mount made for the saddle was likely made either by the exhibit designer under the guidance of the curator or registrar, and conservator, or made by a conservator alone. If the saddle needed any stabilization prior to going on exhibit, this would have been the conservator's job.

8: These medical tools and medicinal bottles were used at field hospitals during the Civil War. As the text explains, powders were stored in lacquered ("Japanned") tinware containers to prevent rusting, and liquids were often stored in aqua or green glass bottles marked "U.S.A. HOSP. DEPT." The curator is responsible for the study and interpretation of the collection, as well as writing text for exhibits (Schlatter, 2008). He would have had to research the history of medicine in order to write these labels.

9: I saw this display in the Gettysburg, 1863 gallery on the first floor of the exhibits. The exhibit designer was responsible for this ingenious case design and object placement, and the curator for the objects themselves. This is an example of engaging, eye-catching exhibit design. I do not even have a particular interest in weaponry, but the way this was displayed made me interested in the material. The curator would have chosen specific rifles and swords, and made sure they were ready for exhibit. When originally acquired, a conservator would have been consulted to ensure all firearms were not loaded.

10: This is a great example of the fusion of technology and archival material. This interactive, entitled "The Civil War Explorer" features a touch screen computer with a searchable database of names of soldiers that fought in the Civil War. An archivist likely provided access to this information to the staff responsible for media and interactives. The media manager is responsible for, "...the creative use of media in exhibitions...[and for] introducing innovative techniques such as interactive computers..." (Glaser & Zenetou, 1996, p. 107). There is an archives at the museum, probably a main source of the data.

11: This interactive was likely the collaboration of media staff (both in-house and a contracted company) and exhibit designers who came up with how the interactive would function, and the curator who had to research the answers to the various questions visitors can ask Mr. Lincoln. The webmasters have put the interactive on the museum's website also! View it here: There are also other historical figures connected to Lincoln, such as Mary Ann Todd Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth.

12: In the Education Gallery, the education staff work with school groups, providing presentations related to the museum's mission and classroom curriculum.

13: This event was taking place during my visit to the museum. I overheard the museum shop staff mention it was a corporate group. The special events director likely scheduled and coordinated this group, including any food and supplies that were needed (Judy Thompson, interview, 2008). Special events staff members were present at the event also. This is an example of how a museum can utilize itself not only as an educational site for the public and school groups, but as venues for businesses and other groups. This increases both revenue and support for the museum.

14: The National Civil War Museum is part of the Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program. Please visit for more information on this museum.

15: References Glaser, J. R., & Zenetou, A. A. (1996). Museums: A place to work, planning museum careers. New York, NY: Routledge. Schlatter, N. E. (2008). Museum careers: A practical guide for students and novices. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press. Thompson, J. (Interviewee). (December 10, 2008). Johns Hopkins University Exploring Museum Professions: Interviews with today’s museum professionals [Audio file]. Retrieved from

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  • By: Lauren C.
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  • Title: National Civil War Museum Photo Essay
  • Museum visit photo essay on the National Civil War Museum
  • Tags: museum, civil war, Museum Studies, school, project
  • Published: about 5 years ago