February 12, 2016

Iowa Civil War exhibit features unique stories, artifacts (audio)

A new exhibit — “Iowa and the Civil War, Nothing But Victory” — opens at the State Historical Society of Iowa Saturday.

In the second of a two-part series, Radio Iowa’s Dar Danielson previews of some of the displays and other activities in the exhibit.   Danielson report :67


The exhibit features some of the personal stories from the thousands of Iowans who went off to war 150 years ago. Museum history curator, Jack Luftkin, says one of the more interesting tales includes an actual piece from a prison brought back from South Carolina by Iowan Samuel Byers.

Luftkin says they don’t know for sure if it’s true, but the story says Byers cut a whole in a wall with a spoon or fork and was able to escape with another prisoner. After the war he came back and cut the whole out of the wall. Byers was also famous for writing the poem “Sherman’s March to the Sea,” which later was put to music. Another exhibit shows how military hospitals were developed.

“It’s called ‘Hospital Horrors, Civil War Medicine,’ which is almost a contradiction in terms. I mean they didn’t know about how to fight bacteria…all that was coming. Antibiotics weren’t known and heard of, so doctors would operate and they wouldn’t even wash their hands, they didn’t know it was important to do. So we have these horrible surgical kits,” Luftkin explains.

One area focuses on the battles where Iowans played a prominent role. Luftkin pointed out a key border battle that is displayed in a diorama.

“This battle was called Wilson’s Creek, which is a park in Missouri. It was one of the first battles that Iowa units participated in,” Luftkin says. “Even though the Union lost the battle, it saved Missouri from going to the confederacy. And then the battle that kind of ensure that for sure was a battle in Arkansas called Pea Ridge, which was just over the border. An Iowa general led that.”

State Historical Museum director, Susan Kloewer, says the artifacts in the displays are supported by modern technology. “We have a variety of different digital viewers that are exploring the topics a little bit further, so that way you can visualize it as you are viewing the artifacts,” Kloewer says.

There is also audio that includes popular music from the time. It’s not all look and listen, as Kloewer says they have several interactive events planned too. They include making hard tack, and watching Civil War reenactors in the camp life area. The exhibit and the interactive events are all free at the State Historical Building. Find out more here:www.iowahistory.org.

Audio  Dar Danielson previews Civil War exhibit with museum director, curator. 23:00

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