Heinz History Center exhibition highlights Pa. role in Civil War

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The year 1863 -- exactly 150 years ago -- was monumental for Pennsylvania. It was then that President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address after the Union army defeated the Confederacy on Pennsylvania soil.

The year was also a turning point of the Civil War for the Union, greatly due to the efforts of Pennsylvania soldiers.

Although Pennsylvania played a pivotal role in the Civil War, not much attention has been paid to the state beyond the crucial Battle of Gettysburg, said Andrew Masich, president and CEO of the Senator John Heinz History Center.

History Center unveils new Civil War exhibit

A new exhibit at the Heinz History Center examines the Civil War and its impact on Pittsburgh and the state. (Video by Nate Guidry; 6/20/2013)

Because of the lack of readily available information, the Heinz History Center announced it will open a new exhibition -- titled "Pennsylvania's Civil War" -- Saturday to showcase the state's impact on the war. The 9,000-square-foot exhibit will remain open until Jan. 5.

"There are so many unknown stories of the Civil War that deserve to be highlighted," Mr. Masich said. "We also wanted to make this relevant to Pennsylvanians today."

He said the exhibition was also selected to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

Perhaps the biggest impact that Pennsylvania made, according to the center's curator of history Leslie Przybylek, was manpower. Pennsylvania contributed more than 350,000 soldiers to the Union army, second only to New York.

The exhibit features more than 150 artifacts, including items on loan from the Smithsonian Institution.

The space is filled with six lifelike museum figures, a printing press, a tintype camera, rifles, war medals, women's gowns, photographs and handwritten letters from soldiers. Many of the walls are lined with quotes from citizens of Western Pennsylvania who feared an attack on Pittsburgh in 1863.

There is also a 26-foot-long replica of a 90-ton cannon that was built in 1864 at the Fort Pitt Foundry in the Strip District. Ms. Przybylek said the point of the exhibition is to tell the stories of all those who lived at the time, not just soldiers.

"This is about combat, but it's also about the people behind the lines who contributed to the battlefront," she said.

The Heinz History Center also tried to provide visitors some of the sounds of the Civil War, such as the notes of a bugle and Stephen Foster compositions, throughout the exhibit, Mr. Masich said.

Tickets for the exhibition are included with regular admission to the center: $15 for adults, $13 for seniors, $6 for students and children and free for children younger than 5.

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Jessica Tully: jtully@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1159 and on Twitter: @jessalynn4. First Published June 21, 2013 4:00 AM


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