Former Carnegie Free Library director Klinefelter returns to curate Civil War Room

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Though her job as part-time curator of the Civil War Room at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library in Carnegie doesn't start until Jan. 1, Diane Klinefelter has much of 2015 and some of 2016 already planned.

"We're going to focus on the aftermath of Gettysburg. We hope to bring to light what happened to the people," she said.

And Ms. Klinefelter, a former library director and the author of two books about the Civil War, is the perfect person to present such material.

"It's a match made in heaven," said Maggie Forbes, the library's executive director. "I'm thrilled Diane is coming back."

And Ms. Klinefelter is enthused about the programming.

"I've loved Civil War history since I was in my 20s," Ms. Klinefelter admits, adding this year's program also will include discussion of the 1864 battle in Petersburg, Va., too.

Ms. Klinefelter has visited a number of the Civil War's Virginia battle sites. She also has relatives that served on both sides of the battlefronts.

Besides learning more about the Civil War through the library's Civil War Room, visitors can also enjoy the building's Thomas Espy Post 153 of the Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal organization composed of Union soldiers who fought in the conflict.

Espy Post members met in a library room for about 30 years until the last member died in the early 1900s and the room, which contains a lot of memorabilia and artifacts, was closed for several decades until a benefactor provided restoration funds that led to its reopening on Feb. 12, 2010. The reopening date coincided with the 201st birthday of Abraham Lincoln, who was president during the Civil War.

The new room has a climate control system to protect the numerous artifacts, books and archives that are housed there.

Captain Espy's life story is of interest to local residents because he lived in nearby Upper St. Clair, where he ran a successful grist mill. Though he had recruited and commanded a militia unit before the Civil War started in 1861, he and his men reenlisted when the war broke out. Capt. Espy was 52 at the time..

After he was wounded in the 1862 battle of Gaines Mill, Va., Capt. Espy was taken prisoner and died a few days later. He left behind a wife and eight children. A monument in his name was erected in Bethel Presbyterian Church Cemetery, but his body was never recovered.

Funds for the library curator's job, as well as for Civil War programs, which includes an all-day event set for April 5, 2014, are being provided by a grant from the Massey Charitable Trust. Another all-day next year, is being planned for 2015, too, to remember the sesquicentennial of the Civil War's end, as well as Lincoln's death.

Ms. Klinefelter said this year's programs will include scholarly topics and popular ones that attract volunteers and also reach out to the community.

"I hope to accelerate what a regional and national treasure we have in Carnegie," she said.

The Civil War Room and Espy Post are open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays, or weekdays by special arrangement. Call 412-276-3456, ext. 5.

"We haven't begun to tap the potential of what that room can mean to the library and this community," contends Ms. Forbes.

Besides her work at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library, Ms. Klinefelter also works part time at the Scott Township Public Library.


Carole Gilbert Brown, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com

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