Aug. 22, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

The Face of Battle

Courtesy Brian Ireley/Smithsonian Institution
"Experience Civil War Photography: From the Home Front to the Battlefront" collects photographs, video and artifacts from early American wartime experience, capturing a historical moment through yesteryear's photojournalism.

One of the most interesting components of the exhibit is the collection of stereoscopic images displayed the way they were first intended to be seen, with 3-D tableaus of corpses, prisoners of war and soldiers springing up through the lens of 3-D glasses. 

The availability of easily printed photographs during the war made it possible for those at home to collect albums filled with images of Northern and Southern heroes, as well as their loved ones who were on the front lines. These small, cheaply produced portraits, called carte de visites, were extremely popular worldwide.  

Picture This

Trends in personal collections reflected the events of the times.

After Lincoln's assassination, the carte de visite of his killer, John Wilkes Booth, became a popular collector's item. 

The exhibit also identifies this period as when photography became an important part of campaigning, a theme that should resonate with a D.C. audience in these pre-election months. 

Lincoln was the first president to use photography as a campaign tool. Photography infiltrated every aspect of American life, so much so that its influence today is almost invisible. 

Other significant historical moments are visible throughout the exhibition. Several cases feature photographs of
African-Americans. During the Civil War, the effort to document the lives of both Northern and Southern blacks signaled a monumental shift in race relations. 

"Experience Civil War Photography" will be on display through the summer of 2013. The opening of this exhibit marks the countdown to the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2015. 

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