Tradition and Technology Converge in Civil War Exhibit

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Ron Turner, a member of the Heritage Troupe performs for the audience at the exhibit opening. Photo Courtesy of Dave Scarbrough

By Eric Mease

“Choose Ye This Day, Cecil County and the Civil War” opened to a standing room only crowd on Saturday as the Historical Society of Cecil County unveiled its much anticipated Civil War exhibit.

Visitors saw artifacts from the society’s collection of Civil War memorabilia ranging from life sized portraits to weapons, from uniforms to enlistment papers, and from articles of clothing to pictures.  Also on display is information about home life, politics, experiences from the front, and a section dedicated to the 200 African Americans related to Cecil County who fought for the Union.  Visitors also experienced living history theatre when the Rev. Joseph T. Brown appeared from out of the mist of time to share his war experiences as a war chaplain, and the Heritage Troupe presented historic skits based on the Civil War era.

Society Board President, Paula Newton said she was happy with the turnout.  “There were about 80 people here, both young and old.  I was especially pleased that I saw so many new faces.  That’s good for our organization that requires constant renewal in order to remain vital.”

The Civil War virtual  library at the Society has just opened.  Lots more will be coming to this page in the months ahead.

The Civil War virtual library at the Society has just opened. Lots more will be coming to this page in the months ahead.

It was emphasized that the exhibit did not begin and end with what’s contained in the  glass exhibit cases or posted to walls.  The exhibit expands into cyberspace with the addition of a newly created Civil War web page on the Historical Society’s web site.  Site creator, Mike Dixon, says the web site is crucial to the society’s future.  “The future lies  not in bricks and mortor, but in internet technology.  Historic museums of all kinds are facing declining membership and limited resources.  We must reach out to scholars and history buffs alike through new technology or we’ll lose them.”

The constantly evolving page already contains excerpts from the society’s newsletters and historic journal, a catalogue of Civil War soldiers buried in Cecil County, a thesis about African Americans related to Cecil County who fought for the Union, and a finding aid to the “Gerry Collection,” a treasure trove of Civil War and 19th century era manuscripts donated to the society by Dr. Davy McCall.  We will soon post Civil War era pictures and a link to the University of Delaware’s project transcribing Rev. Brown’s Civil War diaries.

The society is also working to merge its large collection of Civil War related documents into one area of our library to facilitate easier access to the collection.  Finding aides will also be developed to locate specific documents.

Thanks to Lisa Dolor, the curator of this exhibit along with her helpers, Denise and Conor McNeice for composing the exhibit and the University of Delaware’s College of Arts and Sciences Interdisciplinary Humanities Research Center which scanned the Brown diaries.

You are welcome to research our entire collection when the society is open: Mondays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the first Saturday of every month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  You may, of course reach us on line anytime.

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The crowd is gathering in the reading room as they wait for Eric Mease to start the program.

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