Bleeding Blue and Grey: Civil War Medicine

Topic: History Subtopic: General

Case Study

of an Exhibition

by John Swearingen, Jr.

Published on May 17, 2007, Modified on May 18, 2007

  • Description and goals

    The goal was to teach the general issues of practicing medicine during the civil war, divided by topic and year, with contextual information about several key battles and the Lincoln family’s participation. The 3000 s.f. temporary exhibit space was divided into section I. (1861)on the Chaos created at the beginning of the war, with the military and medical staff being ill-prepared, section II. (1862)contains a camp scene at the battle of Shiloh that is unsanitary, to focus on disease, and includes field passes used by Clara Barton to enter the battlefields, section III. (1863)is a re-created field hospital in a life-sized re-creation of St. Mark’s Episcopal church in Vicksburg, including a surgeon with equipment on one side of a glass enclosure, and an Iraq physician with equipment juxtopositioned, section IV. (1864)is a re-created sanitary fair with an audio-visual display of first hand accounts and interactive play stations for children to play ‘homefront’ and ‘hospital’ and reproduction stereoscopes with images of real sanitary fairs and hospital scenes from the war, and section V. (1865) is a re-created soldiers’ rest home used during the war, and after for soldiers and veterans, including a display of artificial limbs from both the Civil War and today.

  • Development process and challenges

    Our staff scholar, education director and exhibit director created the interpretive plan, script, and interactives. The staff and a committee of museum board members reviewed the process. Three nationally renowned museums provided artifact loans and guest lecturers during the length of the exhibition. A local hospital funded the exhibit, and provided exhibit elements for the “now” sections of the exhibit. The only big challenges were the implementation of the exhibit props, sets and other architecture that had to be installed in less than a month.

  • Lessons learned, mistakes we made (and what we did about them)

    We learned that children love the exhibit, even though we were worried about the “gross me out” factor of the blood and gore. Docents enjoyed the control flow of the exhibit, and each has taken on their own style of presenting the material.

  • Exhibition Opened: March 2007

  • Exhibition Still Open!

  • Traveling Exhibition: No

  • Location: Fort Wayne, IN, None, United States

  • Estimated Cost: Less than $100,000 (US)

  • Size: 1000 to 3,000

  • Other funding source(s): Dupont Hospital, Fort Wayne, IN

  • Website(s):  http://thelincolnmuseum.org

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