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Civil War Museum in Bucks County Preserves Historical Memory

By S. Mathur

More than a hundred and fifty years after it ended, the Civil War continues to shape and influence contemporary debates in politics and culture. The Bucks County Civil War Museum and Library are located in a historic 1835 Federal setting in Hall House, Doylestown PA. Exhibits, special events and research emphasize the region's connection to the Civil War, with a special focus on the town's 104th Pennsylvania Volunteer "Ringgold" Regiment. Exhibits in the permanent collection include works of art, maps, photographs, flags, and sculptures.

Museum exhibits and programs also help visitors understand life in the 1860s, and how local and national events and concerns were linked. The Museum's Abraham Lincoln Collection includes unique personal artifacts which provide a glimpse into the life of the family at the heart of the storm. Executive Director Dee Ann Smith says that "My favorite piece in the museum is Mary Lincoln's portable writing case which is an ear of corn carved from wood. It is a music box which still plays, as well as, ink well and pen. To think of how she must have enjoyed using it thrills me."

Museum events and programs include cemetery tours, Civil War battlefield bus tours, participation in the town's Memorial Day events, and Museum Open Houses. Other Museum events include reenactments, living-history displays, historical-themed community gatherings and public talks on regional and Civil War history.

Popular events have included a Civil War fashion show and tea party, and an enactment of the Gettysburg Address by the famous Abraham Lincoln interpreter, the late Jim Getty.

"In the past several years we have had a tea party for over 100 people with a Civil War fashion show accompanying the event. A Washington D.C. brass band playing Civil War and patriotic music on the Court House grounds was also well attended. But the biggest event was a visit by Abraham Lincoln and a mounted Civil War reenactment cavalry troupe. The soldiers set up a sample tent and demonstrated weapons and showed various uniforms. Abraham Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address after riding through town in a carriage escorted by several cavalry soldiers", Smith says.

Museum resources include the Bucks County Civil War Research Library and Reading Room, which has a large collection of materials in different formats - books, CDs, periodicals, maps, and rare first-editions - for research on the Civil War and Americana studies. The Library's collection is also available for classroom use, online and on site.

Smith says that the richness of the Museum collections is due to strong community support: "Most people are shocked at what a treasure trove we have in such a small museum thanks to the generosity of our members and community. Most are also surprised at the extent of local participation in the 104th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment and that the local obelisk monument in the center of town is a tribute to that regiment There are many local descendants of those volunteers.

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