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Innovative Civil War exhibit coming to Colonial Center

SoVaNow.com / April 18, 2012
The American Civil War continues to elicit powerful emotions. Few Virginia localities were untouched by war. An American Turning Point: The Civil War in Virginia — a 1,000-square-foot traveling panel exhibition comprised of images and interpretive text — explores the people and communities affected by the greatest turmoil to happen on American soil.

The exhibition, which allows the people of the past to speak for themselves, will appear at the Colonial Center from May 1 - May 15, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

The exhibition is designed to appeal to a broad audience by giving voice to previously marginalized participants — free and enslaved African Americans, Unionists, women, and children. By presenting real stories about real people representing a variety of perspectives, it shows how civil war disrupts society and is experienced by more than just soldiers.

“The Colonial Center is proud and honored to host this exhibit. It is an opportunity for the area to have access to a quality exhibit without the additional expense of travel. Furthermore, it enables everyone to further educate themselves on this complex and emotional part of our country’s history,” said Lisa Jordan, Chief Operating Officer.

An American Turning Point is divided into ten themes that focus on various aspects of the war. The exhibition asks visitors questions that may challenge conventional wisdom about the Civil War, such as “Why did the Civil War Happen?”, “The First Modern War?”, “Who Freed the Slaves?” and “Did the Civil War End at Appomattox?”

“We hope that having this exhibition in our area and exposing local residents to this aspect of our shared history will encourage visitors to talk about the Civil War in new and personal ways,” said Jordan.

In addition to the images and text, An American Turning Point also allows visitors to experience history by offering an innovative companion website designed specifically for use on mobile devices. Accessible through a URL or QR-Code available only in the exhibition, the website includes educational videos, 360-degree renderings of Civil War objects, and additional content.

“We don’t expect that An American Turning Point will answer every question or resolve lingering debates that continue even after the passage of 150 years,” says Andrew Talkov, Exhibition Coordinator at the Virginia Historical Society. “We do hope, however, that visitors — particularly those who arrive with little or no interest in the subject — leave the exhibition with a desire to learn more about the commonwealth’s rich history and its role in our nation’s past, present, and future.”

The American Turning Point panel exhibition is traveling to localities throughout Virginia during the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. It complements a 3,000-square-foot gallery exhibition featuring more than 200 artifacts and seventeen interactive audiovisual programs that will be displayed in eight Virginia museums between 2011 and 2015.

An American Turning Point: The Civil War in Virginia is organized by the Virginia Historical Society in partnership with the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission. It has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities and is sponsored in South Hill at the Colonial Center.

To learn more about An American Turning Point, and to see an online version of the exhibition, visit the Virginia Historical Society’s website at http://www.vahistorical.org. For more information about all of the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission projects, visit http://www.VirginiaCivilWar.org.




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