About the Exhibit


Beginning on April 30, 2010, the National Archives will peel back 150 years of accumulated analysis, interpretation, and opinion to reveal a Civil War that is little-known and even more rarely displayed in a new exhibition in the Lawrence F. O'Brien Gallery of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. The "Discovering the Civil War" exhibition will present the most extensive display ever assembled from the incomparable Civil War holdings of the National Archives, and will take a fresh look at the Civil War through little-known stories, seldom-seen documents, and unusual perspectives. The exhibition is presented by the Center for the National Archives Experience and the Foundation for the National Archives.

"Discovering the Civil War" offers visitors the chance to join researchers in unlocking secrets, solving mysteries, and uncovering unexpected events in Civil War records of the National Archives. The exhibition features letters, diaries, photos, maps, petitions, receipts, patents, amendments, and proclamations.

This exhibition is unconventional in every way. It combines these great treasures with engaging touch-screen interactives incorporating social media tools in a physical environment inspired by 21st Century research rooms. Rather than trying to recreate 1860, these interactives let visitors see the war through the lens of 2010 technology.

In Washington, DC, "Discovering the Civil War" was shown in two parts.  Part One ran from April 30, 2010 through September 6, 2010. Part Two ran from November 10, 2010, through April 17, 2011.  The entire exhibit began traveling around the country shortly thereafter.

  • May 21 - Sep 5, 2011: The Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, MI

  • Oct 14, 2011 - Apr 29, 2012: The Houston Museum of Natural Science, Houston, TX

  • Feb 12 - Sep 2, 2013: Tennessee State Museum, Nashville, TN