Thursday, January 3, 2013

Clara Barton’s Missing Soldiers Office Exhibit

     It’s been a while since I updated the progress on the Clara Barton’s Missing Soldiers Office.  You may recall from my previous posts that the National Museum of Civil War Medicine recently partnered with the U.S. General Services Administration to create this new museum in the space where the Missing Soldiers Office was once housed.  The artifacts discovered in this building, which are owned by the GSA, are associated with Clara Barton and Edward Shaw, her landlord and friend.  A number of these artifacts will be displayed at the new museum on 7th Street in Washington, D.C.
     Restoration work on the space started in 2012.  A welcome center will be opened on the first floor of the building, and the third floor, where Clara lived and worked, will be devoted to the interpretive exhibits.  It is projected to be open by the end of this year.

     In the meantime, some of the artifacts have been borrowed from the GSA so that we could create a display of some of Clara Barton’s items here at the NMCWM.  It has taken quite a bit of work, but I was finally able to install the new exhibit this week.  I’m sure all you Clara Barton fans are eager to take a look!
Of course the old exhibit had to be taken out first! Alison was a big help in moving the artifacts.

The case is kind of bare now, but it won’t stay that way for long!


First the panels have to be put on the walls. If a panel falls or a nail drops, I don’t want any of the artifacts involved! Here, Kyle helps me to mark where the panels will be placed.

Got it on the first try!

The labels for the artifacts are added last.

     Now let’s take a closer look at some of the artifacts on display.

Most mid-nineteenth century medicines were shipped and stored in glass bottles such as these. The bottle on the left retains a partial paper label which reads, "Antimon... John... Corner of E... Wash..." It contained antimony, a toxic element that was used as an emetic (to cause vomiting) during the Civil War.

This salt bag is representative of the supplies that Clara Barton collected and took to the soldiers at the front. Salt was used to season and preserve food. 


Here are just a few of the socks and sock tops which were found in the building. If the bottom of a sock was worn out or damaged, the top could be removed and a new bottom knitted to it. Refurbished socks could be sent to soldiers in need, and the soldiers were often in need of socks! Note the blood stains on the sock in front.

Two of the metal signs which Clara Barton used at the Missing Soldiers Office.
And here is the finished display. 
I can't help but hope that Clara would be pleased with it!
     More information about the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office Museum can be found at


Photos courtesy of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.

1 comment:

  1. Saw the sign in the window - open for tours weekends starting March 8, 2014, Hoorah!