Currier and Ives’ prints were a large part of the media during the Civil War era. Not only were Romantic prints sold and hung in people’s parlors, but cartoons were also very popular. It is important to remember that Currier and Ives’ goal was not to produce fine art, but to make a product that was attractive to middle-class consumers. Thus, political and social cartoons became a way to attract customers. They tried to stay away from controversial topics; however, their Darktown series was one of their best-selling series of the day. Today, the Darktown series is rarely displayed and relatively unknown because of its controversial depictions of slavery and African-Americans. The press also rarely took sides, but when pushed upon took up the side with the more popular argument. Special Collections is fortunate to have two Currier and Ives cartoons. The first cartoon, discussed below, illustrates a common criticism towards the Union during the war, mocks a political conflict before the war, and the other displays a common criticism towards the Union during the war.
Photography: the ability to capture a moment in time exactly as it appeared, to then preserve it for posterity, even mass produce it for a wide viewership. A relatively new concept by the beginning of the American Civil War, photography quickly came into its own in the hands of such legends as Matthew Brady and Alexander Gardner as they sought to document the furious storm which had swept over the land. Photographs of the Civil War are prolific, and for many the memory of the conflict is intertwined with black-and-white photographs of unsmiling men and corpses bloating in the sun. Yet as I sat in Gettysburg College Special Collections, reverently paging through original issues of some of the era’s most famous illustrated newspapers, I could not help but notice the deficiencies inherent in Civil war photography when compared with other media, most notably the work of sketch artists.
Musselman Library’s Special Collections & College Archives at Gettysburg College is a center for undergraduate student and faculty research and houses and maintains several types of primary source materials, including rare books, letters, diaries, maps, works of art, and photographs. Carolyn Sautter, the director of Special Collections, said, “one of the best ways of learning about historical eras is to actually see the images of the time period.” Special Collections provides researchers and visitors opportunities to visually engage with objects through either the exhibit cases in the Collection’s Reading Room or on the GettDigital website, a venue on which poeple can explore the Civil war by seeing peoples’ faces. Especially with fragile materials such as William H. Harris’ West Point 1861 Album, Special Collections’ online resource provides access to objects that would otherwise be inaccessable to students and faculty.
By Rachel Hammer ’15
Last time I interned at the Gettysburg National Military Park, it was January of 2011. And if anyone needs reassurance that not many people visit Gettysburg in the dead of winter…not many people visit Gettysburg in the dead of winter. So, having the opportunity to spend a summer, especially the summer of the 150th, at Gettysburg was quite the culture shock. Not that my primary job involved much interaction with visitors, which personally is how I enjoy working. Five days a week, I worked in museum services in the Visitor Center lower level (aka the basement).
I’ve had an interest in the archival and curatorial side of museums since high school. I now work in Special Collections at Musselman Library at Gettysburg College, and it’s the general direction I hope to go with my life. I greatly respect interpreters for what they do, because they’re passionate enough to go out everyday and hype up visitors with a story that hopefully will stick with the visitor for a long time. For me, I like being able to prepare behind the scenes and let the visitor interpret the object, exhibit, etc. for themselves. This internship allowed me to see more of both archival and curatorial duties, practices, and even problems.
For the first weeks of the summer, another intern and I had to go through a back log of nearly 1,000 photos from the 1990s, assign them catalog numbers, write the individual catalog number on every single photo, put them in our special archival photo boxes, and label them. Although the grunt work part of this project was dull at times, it did lead to learning about cold storage (how photos are stored in order to best preserve them). Once the photos were in the archival photo boxes, the box is wrapped in two layers of plastic (making sure everything is sealed as air tight as possible) and put in a fridge. A humidity strip on the box and between the layers of plastic show if there’s air leaking into the box. Continue reading “Stories from the (Gettysburg) Basement”
In her book War Stories, Frances Clarke outlines the importance of being seen as a man in Victorian society. For a soldier and his family it was important to know that if he should meet a tragic end, his death would be seen as a triumphant one. These concepts can be found in the story of Frederick H. Kronenberger, a young clerk who enlisted in the Second New Jersey Volunteer Regiment during the Civil War.
by Val Merlina, ’14 ??????he epitomizes the core principle of our country that all persons are created equal. Unlike Thomas Jefferson, who wrote “All men are created [equal],” [Thaddeus] Stevens believed it with every fiber of this being and actually …
“…he epitomizes the core principle of our country that all persons are created equal. Unlike Thomas Jefferson, who wrote “All men are created [equal],” [Thaddeus] Stevens believed it with every fiber of this being and actually enacted it into law…”
-Ross Hetrick, President of the Thaddeus Stevens Society
History and the unending march of time tends to cloud not only the vision into the past, but also the legacies of noteworthy individuals. Historical figures such as Thaddeus Stevens, until now, have not received the laudatory acclaim he so rightly deserves from modern society.