The Civil War in Pennsylvania

Senator John Heinz History Center
Pittsburgh, PA

As part of PA Civil War 150, the statewide commemoration of Pennsylvania’s role in the Civil War, the Heinz History Center,  with support from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and Peoples Natural Gas, developed a compact five hundred square foot exhibit designed to travel to smaller venues. This traveling exhibit, The Civil War in Pennsylvania, was designed to help local history organizations share Civil War stories at smaller museums and participate in the statewide initiative.

The Heinz History Center operates an Affiliates Program (HCAP) for 125 historical societies in the region.  Its mission is to assist historical organizations having little or no professional staff operate at a professional level.  The Civil War in Pennsylvania project targeted those groups, providing a quality museum exhibit that could be displayed in a minimum of space for venues without the resources to develop an exhibit on their own. The History Center designed concise, modular pieces for maximum flexibility and provided an empty case and label production for venues to add and highlight their own local collections. The exhibit package, provided to venues at no cost, also included installation and de-installation of the exhibit, curriculum materials, programming contacts, a press kit, and suggestions for marketing.

The exhibit features five life-size figures in contained vignettes, five floating text panels, and two cases.  The figures were chosen to represent key themes developed by scholars as part of the CW150 effort, to represent both the battlefield and the home front, and to expand interpretation of the Pennsylvania story beyond the Battle of Gettysburg.

The exhibit provided HCAPs with a quality product on a topic of regional interest that sparked greater awareness of and attendance at local history museums. At the end of its run in 2015, the exhibit will have traveled to more than 30 venues. Evaluations of the program have exceeded expectations for both the History Center and its affiliates. A recent survey of those participating indicated that 100% of respondents welcomed another similar traveling exhibit. Attendance at every venue increased significantly during the exhibit run, with one venue reporting ten times its normal visitation. The exhibit also gave local historical societies an opportunity to focus attention on their own unique stories and collections, and how their area contributed to the larger story of the Civil War in Pennsylvania.