Thursday, October 4, 2012

After the Sesquicentennial – The Dead at Antietam


     It’s been another busy week getting ready for a new exhibit!  The Pry House Field Hospital Museum is now hosting an exhibit called Bringing the Story of War to Our Doorsteps;  Rediscovering Alexander Gardner’s Antietam Photographs.  The photos in the display are reprints of those taken by Alexander Gardner starting just two days after the Battle of Antietam, showing dead bodies on the field.  It is a recreation of a display set up by Matthew Brady in October 1862.  A copy of the New York Times article covering the original exhibit can be seen here.
 
The entrance to the photo display is very simple and was designed to look similar to the original display.

 
The reproduced photos are the same size as those displayed in 1862, and a magnifying glass is provided at each stand for the viewers as it was then too.

 

     Many of Gardner’s Antietam photos were taken with stereoscopic cameras so that the images could be turned into stereographs.  Some of these images have been incorporated into a short video so the images can be viewed in 3D.   

 
Though the picture looks blurry here, if you view it through the 3D glasses it becomes quite an amazing image!

 

     My role for this exhibit was to add two displays that related to the photographs.

 
This display contains some original stereographs of Alexander Gardner images, along with a period stereoscope. I set it up so that visitors could take a peek through it at one of the images!

 
This small display contains some artifacts associated with mourning.

 
     The black edge on the handkerchief in the display identifies it as a mourning handkerchief.  People used to observe several stages of mourning after the death of a family member.  The width of the black trim indicated the stage of mourning.  They started with wide bands of black trim.  This handkerchief would have been for a later stage of mourning.

     The rings in the photo are both mourning rings.  The one in front is made of braided human hair, held with a small gold band.  The name of the person being mourned could be engraved on the band.  The ring in the back is a gold and pearl ring in a red leather case.  In the center of the ring is a small square of clear glass which covers a small fragment of hair.  Hair jewelry was often worn as a remembrance of a loved one.

     I hope we were able to convey a sense of the staggering number of lives lost at the Battle of Antietam.

 

Photos courtesy of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine

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