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History in Harrisburg: The National Civil War Museum

By Elisha Neubauer

Since opening its doors in 2001, The National Civil War Museum has sought to portray an unbiased look at the war that tore the nation apart in 1861. Incorporating a vast collection of artifacts, manuscripts, documents, and photographs, the museum tells the story of the Civil War, from the issues that led to the conflict to the eventual conclusion at the Appomattox Courthouse in 1865.

Museum curator Brett Kelley believes that Harrisburg was a natural choice for the museum's location. "Harrisburg was a capital city of one of the largest northern states and as a massive transportation hub for men and war materials moving through the city on their way to the front, which was vital to the Union war effort," Kelley explains. "Harrisburg was also home to Camp Curtin which was the largest Camp in the north for the consolidation of regiments during the war. Over 300,000 fighting men passed through Camp Curtin during the war. Twice during the war, Harrisburg was the target of Confederate armies invading the north because of its strategic importance."

Under the support of Mayor Stephen R. Reed, most artifacts housed in the museum were collected between 1994 and 1999. The museum currently holds over 24,000 artifacts within its walls- displaying about one-fourth of its collection at any one time while securely storing the surplus for future shows or research. The museum focuses on the human side of the conflict, striving to show what life was like on both sides of the struggle. The collection focuses on soldiers at the heart of the war as well as men and women on the home front. The artifacts also illustrate the African-American experience during the time period. Because the museum is affiliated with Smithsonian Institution, it is also able to integrate Smithsonian artifacts into exhibits.

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About The Author

Elisha Neubauer is a freelance editor, ghostwriter, book reviewer, and author. She is...

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