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Commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War, The Houston Museum of Natural Science presents Discovering the Civil War, opening Oct. 14[10/14/2011]


BY Alex Wang [ October 04, 2011 at 05:45:20 ]

HOUSTON—When confederate forces attacked military installations at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, brother became pitted against brother, state against state, and north against south, all causing a young nation to confront the social, political, economic, and racial issues that threatened to divide it forever. Considered to be the deadliest war in American history, the Civil War continues to captivate audiences young and old.

Discovering the Civil War, a special exhibition from the National Archives commemorating the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, opens at the Houston Museum of Natural Science on October 14, 2011 through April 29, 2012, and gives visitors the opportunity to consider and ask questions about historical evidence, listen to a wide variety of voices, and make up their own minds about the struggle that tore apart these United States and that continues to shape our national identity. The exhibition is the largest ever assembled from the incomparable Civil War holdings of the National Archives.

Emancipation Proclamation—limited display

Also on loan from the National Archives will be the original Emancipation Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln, which will be on display Feb.16-Feb. 21, 2012 for a very limited time. Because of its age and delicate condition, the precious document is only available for public viewing for four days.

“In this special exhibition, visitors will have the opportunity through touch screen technology, documents, and stories from the National Archives to learn first hand about the four-year period in our history that reconstructed a nation,” said Amanda Norris , assistant director of youth education sales. “The records they left behind give us a path back to this singular period in history.”

HMNS also presents two special additions to Discovering the Civil War—an intimate presentation featuring historical objects, photographs, and artworks from The Nau Civil War Collection, as well as artifacts from the Union gun boat scuttled in the Battle of Galveston—The Westfield.

Walk through the exhibition

The exhibition is divided into 12 thematic areas, selected to illustrate the extent of the conflict and to ask the question “How do we know what happened?” Combining original treasures with engaging touch-screen interactives, this exhibition enables visitors to take a fresh look at a conflict that continues to encourage ideas and connections between seemingly disparate topics which still touch our lives.

Within these themes, guests discover:

• The similarities between the Constitution of the Confederacy and the U.S. Constitution

• How Lincoln stopped the execution of a Confederate major

• Film of the 75th reunion of Battle of Gettysburg veterans filmed by the Army Signal Corps

• The original journal of Confederate Midshipman Clarence Cary describing the Union assault on Fort Fisher , off the coast of North Carolina on Christmas Eve, 1864.

• A “substitute book” listing names of men from Brooklyn , New York , who were paid $300 to replace draftees

• A telegram from a southern governor rejecting Lincoln ’s call for troops

• An original Freedmen’s Bureau record from Texas documenting thousands of murders and outrages committed against African Americans

• Innovative wartime patents including a multipurpose device that could serve as a tent, knapsack or blanket

• The Chinese connection to the Civil War

The Nau Civil War Collection

John L. Nau, III, a Houstonian, has been fascinated with all aspects of the Civil War since childhood and began collecting artifacts from an early age. The Nau Civil War Collection is one of the largest private collections of Civil War documents, photographs, weapons, and artifacts in the country. Currently, the collection contains more than 15,000 documents and letters; 2,000 photographic images; 300 weapons; and a large assortment of military accoutrements, equipment, and uniforms. For the first time ever, an array of these historical treasures will be on display for the general public.

In this section of the exhibition, Discovering the Front Line: Highlights from the Nau Civil War Collection, visitors are given a vivid glimpse into the world of the courageous soldiers willing to sacrifice their lives. View a “Coffee Mill Sharps” Carbine, the brass cipher disc used by Confederate Captain Frank Markow, as well as the frock coat worn by Major John E. Dooley, of the 1st Virginia Volunteer Militia, during the Battle of First Bull Run at Manassas. Marvel at artifacts used by Texas troops; Army and Navy Revolvers made by the J. H. Dance Brothers of East Columbia and Anderson, Texas; a Cavalry Officer’s saber made by J. C. Wilson of Houston; and a medal given to members of Dick Dowling’s Davis Guards following their triumph at the Battle of Sabine Pass. The precious objects are complemented by unique ambrotype and tintype portraits of Civil War soldiers and a selection of drawings created in the field by both average soldiers and professional war correspondents.

USS Westfield

The third, and smallest, portion of the exhibit is dedicated to the battle for control over the port of Galveston and, in particular, the role played by the USS Westfield. Scuttled in 1862, and dynamited in 1906, the ship was rediscovered in 2005 and excavated in the following years. Visitors will learn where the ship was built, the brief role it played in the West Gulf Blockading Squadron, and how it met its demise in the waters around Galveston . The Houston Museum of Natural Science is indebted to the Naval History and Heritage Command Underwater Archaeology Branch for permission to present some of the items recently retrieved from the wreck and ably restored by the Center for Maritime Archaeology and Conservation at Texas A&M University .

Relive the gripping saga of one of the bloodiest battles in American and world history when Discovering the Civil War, featuring the Nau Civil War Collection and artifacts from the Westfield , opens at the Houston Museum of Natural Science October 14, 2011 through April 29, 2012. For tickets, or more information, visit www.hmns.org or call (713) 639-4629.

Discovering the Civil War is presented by the Center for the National Archives Experience and supported by the Foundation for the National Archives.

Local support is generously provided by United Airlines, HMW Entertainment, IBERIABANK and Vinson & Elkins LLP.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science—one of the nation’s most heavily attended museums—is a centerpiece of the Houston Museum District. With four floors of permanent exhibit halls, and the Wortham IMAX® Theatre, Cockrell Butterfly Center , Burke Baker Planetarium and George Observatory and as host to world-class and ever-changing touring exhibitions, the Museum has something to delight every age group. With such diverse and extraordinary offerings, a trip to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, located at 5555 Hermann Park Drive in the heart of the Museum District, is always an adventure.


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