Discovering the Civil War

The Civil War is coming to Michigan.

Beginning May 21, a wealth of Civil War documents, ranging from letters and diaries to photos and receipts, will be shown as part of a traveling national exhibit, Discovering the Civil War, at the Henry Ford in Dearborn.

This is no staid exhibit. These and other documents, including a telegram from a Southern governor rejecting Lincoln’s call for troops and the Louisiana ordinance of secession, will be shown through the lense of the 21st century. Interactive displays and social media will help visitors experience a more personal view of the four-year conflict, which marks its sesquicentennial beginning this year.

“Nearly every person has been touched by this war in some way, through families, close friends, and relatives. It was huge event in our history, and there are a lot of misunderstandings about it,” says John Neilson, director of the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. “(The exhibit) makes a personal connection and shows how the war still resonates for some people today.”

Looking around the world today, there are lots countries torn apart by war, he notes. “It’s hard to visualize America was at that place one time in its past. It’s interesting to think about and the challenges we faced,” Neilson says.

The Dearborn stop will include a rare showing of the original Emancipation Proclamation. The historic document will be shown for just three days, June 20-22. The overall exhibit runs through Sept. 5.

The Civil War exhibit premieres in its entirety at the Henry Ford. It was previously shown as two separate exhibits at the National Archives. From Dearborn, the exhibit travels to Houston and Nashville.

For information, visit Discovering the Civil War Exhibit.

Greg Tasker
Greg Tasker is Detroit News Arts and Entertainment Editor and has been writing about travel for more than a decade. His travel stories have appeared in AAA Living, Frommer's Budget Travel, Scouting, AMC Outdoors, Vermont Life and Island Life.