Our Collection

Hello and welcome to the Curator’s page of The National Civil War Museum’s web site. The museum’s collections include more than 4,400 three dimensional artifacts and 21,000 archival pieces. The collections include many artifacts of famous personalities of the war from General Robert E. Lee to President Abraham Lincoln. However, the vast majority of the collections contain artifacts and archival materials of the average soldier from the North and South. Currently, we are in the process of updating our exhibit label system in the permanent galleries; once this is complete, we will be able to change artifacts on display more easily by creating the labels in-house. This will allow us to rotate artifacts from the artifact storage area to the galleries on a more regular basis and, in the process, allow members of the museum to see more artifacts on subsequent visits. Rotating the artifacts will also help to preserve them by keeping them out of the damaging light for long periods.

Another project that we are currently working on is the organization of the museum archives. Utilizing the skills of our volunteer corps and our college interns, we are moving forward in cataloging our archive collection. The goal is to have our entire collection on our searchable database so that students and other researchers will be able to come in and find individual letters, diaries, documents and photographs while sitting at a computer terminal in our research room. We are currently adding catalog records into the database, including a complete transcription of each document along with a high resolution digital image of each page. In order for this project to move forward, we will need more volunteers who would be interested in transcribing original letters and documents, many that have not been read since the Civil War. We will also need help with scanning these original documents, so if you have an abundance of time and patience, this may be the volunteer opportunity that you have been looking for. Part of our archives includes a growing reference library of Civil War volumes - many are 1st editions written during or just after the war. We presently have approximately 3,000 volumes that include regimental histories, biographies, reference books on many Civil War topics and original tactics books carried by the soldiers themselves, Union and Confederate.

Each year, we have several changing exhibits that add to the visitors experience during their trip to the museum. These exhibits cover a variety of topics which have in the past included: Harrisburg’s role in the Battle of Gettysburg, the Civil War artwork of Mort Kunstler, the flags of the Civil War, women’s roles in the Civil War, children and the war, the Buffalo Soldiers, slavery and those who escaped, artwork of soldiers, newspapers and reporting the war, conscription during the Civil War and at present an exhibit called "In the Hands of the Enemy - Captivity, Parole & Exchange of Prisoners in the Civil War". This rare topic highlights the brutal conditions of prisoner of war camps, both Confederate and Union. This exhibit will display rare artifacts from the Museum's collection and panels will address and explain the conditions of the camps and daily prisoner life.

I will continue to update and improve this page with our progress on the many new projects that we have started and with projects that we are cooking up for the future. Your input is always welcome, so if you have an idea for an exhibit, maybe something you would like to see on this page or an idea on how to improve your Civil War experience here at the museum, I want to hear it!
Thank you,
Brett Kelley