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History Center Exibit explores Pennsylvania's impact on the Civil War


Last updated 6/24/2013 at 4:38pm

The Senator John Heinz History Center will provide visitors with an in-depth look at Pennsylvania’s significant role during the Civil War as part of its new major exhibition, Pennsylvania’s Civil War, presented by Mylan.

In addition to highlighting the state’s contributions to important conflicts such as the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania’s Civil War showcases Pittsburgh’s role as the “Arsenal of the Union” and the impact that Western Pennsylvanians had on the war both on the battlefield and on the home front. The exhibition is a key component in a series of History Center programs and publications developed in partnership with PA Civil War 150, the statewide initiative to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

Pennsylvania’s Civil War features more than 150 artifacts, including items on loan from the Smithsonian Institution, the State Museum of Pennsylvania, and the National Civil War Museum, along with rare archival images, six life-like museum figures, and immersive settings. The exhibition helps to bring to life the personal stories of those impacted during the four-year war, including soldiers, women, African Americans, and children.

The History Center utilized an innovative 3-D printing process to create a massive 26-foot-long, nine-ton smooth bore Rodman Cannon, underwritten by Dan and Bonnie Sandman. It provides a life-size example of Pittsburgh’s military production and prowess during the Civil War. The original cannon, built in 1864 at the Fort Pitt Foundry in Pittsburgh’s Strip District, weighed nearly 90 tons. The cannon could shoot a 20-inch cannonball 4.5 miles and was designed and cast using groundbreaking technology developed by Thomas Jackson Rodman.

Many of the artifacts featured in the exhibit are selected from the History Center’s collection, as well as private collectors, including noted Civil War author Kenneth Turner.

Highlights of the Pennsylvania’s Civil War exhibit include:

· An immersive setting where visitors will walk through a recreated street in 1863 Pittsburgh and learn about the looming threat of a Confederate invasion;

· A tintype camera and portable printing press on loan from the Smithsonian Institution;

· A July 1863 letter written by Union Army officer Joshua Chamberlain to his wife Fanny after the Battle of Gettysburg that laments Strong Vincent’s death, on loan from the National Civil War Museum;

· A bullet-shot forage cap worn by a Pennsylvania Reserves soldier at the Battle of Antietam;

· Mourning jewelry, accessories, and costumes;

· A militia drum, fife, bugles, 19th century board games, and other materials used by soldiers in camp;

· “Old Iron City” camp fiddle retrieved by the members of the 193rd Pennsylvania and inscribed with the names of each of the soldiers;

· Personal mementoes and gifts given to soldiers as they headed off to war, such as a sewing kit, a needle case, and a Bible; and

· Original Civil War recruitment posters from communities across Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Blairsville, Lock Haven, and Meadville.

On select weekends and special events throughout the year, the exhibit will feature Civil War-themed living history demonstrations which will provide visitors with a realistic portrayal of life in Western Pa. during the war.

Pennsylvania’s Civil War will complement additional Civil War areas located in several of the History Center’s long-term exhibitions, including From Slavery to Freedom on the fourth floor, Pittsburgh: A Tradition of Innovation on the second floor, and the Sigo Falk Collections Center, which features the Monongahela House bed that Abraham Lincoln slept in during his only visit to Pittsburgh in 1861.

The exhibit is on display through Jan. 5, 2014.

For more information on Pennsylvania’s Civil War, including artifact photos and updated event information, visit


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