Current / Past Exhibits
The Museum has a rich history of groundbreaking exhibitions at each of our locations. Please see the list below for some of the topics we explore presently and in the past.
New Exhibition Opening Spring 2024: The Impending Crisis
The American Civil War Museum will launch a major exhibition at its Tredegar location in Richmond, Virginia, in 2024. Titled The Impending Crisis, this exhibit will delve into the events, individuals, and topics that led to the division of the United States on the verge of civil war.
Beyond Valor is a result of a collaboration with the Cameron Art Museum (CAM) Boundless art installation and the call for descendants of the 1st, 5th, 10th, 27th, and 37th USCT who fought in the Battle of Forks Road in February of 1865, where the CAM stands today. At this intersection of art and history, our museums aim to highlight stories that embody the bravery and agency of the United States Colored Troops.
The artifacts featured in Beyond Valor have never been on display, and are either directly connected to the regiments involved in the Battle of Forks Road or are items that were typically used by USCT soldiers. Objects directly associated with USCT soldiers are exceedingly rare.
Our permanent, core exhibit, A People’s Contest: Struggles for Nation and Freedom in Civil War America, features hundreds of original artifacts, dynamic theater experiences and compelling imagery. Visitors will be able to explore, understand and feel the dramatic story of the American Civil War and its legacies.
Organized chronologically as well as by topic, each gallery within the exhibit explores an aspect of the War that occurred during the 1850’s and 1860’s. Political developments are interwoven with civilian experiences and military events, providing multiple perspectives in a multifaceted manner. Technology is used selectively to impact the visitors’ experience and encourage their engagement with artifacts and images.
Robins Theater & Original Film:
“A People’s Contest: America’s Civil War & Emancipation“
This film was developed to inspire an understanding of the motivational causes, course, and consequences of the War, and compliments the ACWM flagship exhibit, A People’s Contest: Struggles for Nation & Freedom in Civil War America. With an original script and musical score, the film reflects themes of the Museum’s flagship exhibit by presenting distinctive and unexpected elements.
The immersive short-film A People’s Contest: America’s Civil War & Emancipation is an indispensable part of the visitor experience designed to inspire an understanding of the motivational causes, course, and consequences of the American Civil War.
What happens when wars come home to Americans? From the moment the new Confederate States moved their capital to Richmond, Virginia in late May 1861, capturing the city became a primary objective of United States armies. Richmond was the industrial and political hub of a new nation, the destination for conscripted and impressed soldiers, white and Black, and a place where wounded and sick men either recovered or died. In these ways, Richmond is unique in American history.
Coming Soon to ACWM-Appomattox: Greenback America
Using poems, songs, cartoons, newspaper clippings, and more, visitors will explore how Americans assigned cultural meaning to money and how doing so helped them interpret politics, patriotism, and race. This temporary exhibit tells the story of how the United States’ decision on how to pay off the Civil War transformed the relationship between the government, the economy, banks, and citizens.
Explore the overlapping stories of the end of the War and the beginning of a reunified nation. The exhibit houses 400 artifacts, photographs, and documents, including the uniform coat and sword that Robert E. Lee wore to surrender. Located just over a mile from the surrender site, ACWM–Appomattox provides stories with unique insight into the end of the Civil War and its legacies.
In the age of Emancipation, freedom was more than just a word. Explore how African Americans from local Virginia communities experienced – and defined – freedom after enslavement, and how their experiences connect to our lives today.
This exhibit is a collaboration between the faculty and students of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech, and the American Civil War Museum. It was made possible in part by support from Virginia Humanities.
Southern Ambitions explores the Confederate States’ aspiration to become global players on their own terms. With the fifth-largest economy in the world prior to the Civil War, the Confederacy sought total independence. Their goal was prominence in economic, technological, and diplomatic partnerships among the leading western nations. At the heart of their vision lay plans for the growth and expansion of slavery. But what happened when Western nations rejected the Confederacy’s hopes?
Southern Ambitions is presented in both English and Spanish.
Between the Battles
This special exhibition explored the daily life of the Confederate soldier when not in battle. Little of a soldier’s time in the army was actually spent in combat. The majority of an army career was spent in camp, on garrison duty, or marching from one camp or garrison to another. Soldiers occupied their time learning a strange new regimented lifestyle that was so different from the civilian one they had just left. The average soldier spent more time fighting disease and the monotony of camp life than he did fighting the enemy. “Between the Battles” used artifacts, documents, letters, and photographs to trace the daily life of the Confederate soldier.
Virginia and the Confederacy
This exhibit examined the Civil War years as a pivotal time in Virginia’s history. Virginia was the keystone of the Confederacy with the largest white and black populations, the largest industrial base, and an important and symbolic tradition of leadership in national affairs. It was the scene of more battles and more deaths than any other state. Highlights of the exhibit included a signed copy of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s General Order No. 9; the original Great Seal of the Confederacy; and the swords of General J.E.B. Stuart, his father-in-law General Philip St. George Cooke (USA) and his brother-in-law General John R. Cooke (CSA).
Art of the Confederacy
This noteworthy exhibit highlighted the art created during the wartime years as well as post-war pieces that capture the spirit of the “Lost Cause” through paintings, prints, photography, and sketches. This rare and intimate look at the Confederate south featured Conrad Wise Chapman’s deftly executed oil paintings of Charleston Harbor, and William Ludwell Sheppard’s nostalgic and idealized watercolors of the common soldier, and unique sketches by soldier artists produced in the field.
The Confederate Navy
The story of the men, ships and operations of the Confederate Navy was told through objects, photographs and documents in The Museum of the Confederacy’s permanent collections and selected loans from other museums and private collections. Many flags, swords, portraits, paintings of ships, ship models, telescopes, ship logs revealed the extraordinary tales of this unheralded but surprisingly effective navy. The Museum of the Confederacy gratefully acknowledges the generosity of Don Wilkinson, descendant of Cdr. John Wilkinson, commander of the blockade-runner Robert E. Lee, for making this exhibit possible.
The Confederate Nation
Although battles and leaders often dominate the story of the Confederate States of America, military victories were merely the necessary means of achieving the desired end: independent nationhood. The question is often asked: did the Confederate government and the Southern people actually succeed in creating a nation? Using the Museum’s rich object, photograph, and document collections, this exhibit examined the South’s government and diverse society and the peoples’ efforts to create and maintain a new nation in the midst of a war for independence.
Treasures from Confederate Memorial Hall New Orleans, Louisiana
Uniforms and personal possessions of Jefferson Davis and generals P. G. T. Beauregard and Braxton Bragg were loaned to complement the Museum’s annual fund-raising ball.
The Confederate Spirit Valor, Sacrifice, and Honor Legends in Gray: The Paintings of Mort Künstler
Original paintings by the popular modern artistic interpreter of the Confederacy complemented the debut of a new print featuring the Confederate White House.
R. E. Lee: The Exhibition
Drawing from the Museum’s own rich collections and borrowing from several public and private collections, this was the largest exhibit ever devoted to the life and career of Robert E. Lee. Through generous use of personal possessions, photographs, letters, and quotations, it introduced visitors to the man whom his West Point classmates called the “marble model.”
North Carolina: First, Farthest, Last
A display of highlights from the Museum’s North Carolina collection was created in conjunction with the annual fund-raising ball.
“Every Kind of Wound and Disease”: Hospital Life Within the Confederate Medical Department
A surgical kit serves in most Civil War museum exhibits to evoke the medical history of the war. This exhibit displayed not only a wide variety of surgical instruments, but also artificial limbs, stretchers, uniforms and other possessions of medical personnel, letters, official records and documents, and photographs to tell the stories of Confederate hospitals, the people who worked in them, and the men whom they treated.
Lost Daughter of the Lost Cause: Varina Anne Davis
Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the death of “Winnie” Davis, who was born in 1864 in the Confederate White House and became an enormously popular symbol of the South, this exhibit included personal items borrowed from Beauvoir (the Jefferson Davis Shrine) and the Confederate Memorial Hall in New Orleans.
Lone Star Confederates
A display of highlights from the Museum’s Texas collection was created in conjunction with the annual fund-raising ball.
A People Apart: The American South and the Civil War
The social history of the Confederacy was presented through highlights of the Museum’s permanent collections.
A Kind of Nobility: The Kentucky Orphan Brigade
Significant loans from descendants of veterans complemented the Museum’s own collections to tell the story of Kentucky’s most famous Confederate troops.
Confederate South Carolina
A display of highlights from the Museum’s South Carolina collection was created in conjunction with the annual fund-raising ball.
A Woman’ War: Southern Women, Civil War, and the Confederate Legacy
With the assistance of two National Endowment for the Humanities grants, the exhibition took what often seems to have been a conflict of only men and brought to light the crucial role of southern mothers, wives and daughters in the creation, fighting and ultimately the healing of the Civil War.
The Confederate Challenge: A Quiz Exhibit
Rare and largely unseen objects and artworks from the Museum’s collection provided visitors a stimulating environment to test their Civil War knowledge.
Observations from the Field: A New Perspective
Selections of the modern pinhole photographs of Civil War reenactors by Richmond artist Willie Anne Wright were displayed.
In the Shadow of Ruins: Mourning in the Civil War South
Visitors were treated to a reprise of the popular 1980s exhibit on mourning. Read more about mourning in the publication that was designed to accompany the 1984-85 exhibition “Women in Mourning.”
April 1865–April 1995: An Exploration of the Confederate Legacy
Supported by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy, this exhibit used flags, objects, documents, and audio-recorded quotations to explore the myths, realities, and significance of Richmond’s last days as the Confederate capital.
America, Money and War: Financing the Civil War
This exhibit created by the Museum of American Financial History in New York explored the visually rich and complex world of nineteenth-century finance.
Mosby and Sheridan in the Valley
Uniform frock coats of Col. John S. Mosby and Gen. Philip H. Sheridan loaned by the Smithsonian Institution were displayed along with paintings from the Museum’s own collection.
“Pickett’s Charge”: A Flag Exhibition
For the first time since that fateful day in 1863, the battle flags belonging to all but two regiments of Gen. George E. Pickett’s Virginia division were on display together. The exhibit also explored the role of the other regiments that participated in the charge at Gettysburg.
Virginia is for Lovers… And It Always Has Been
Wartime valentines and love letters from the Museum’s collection marked the 25th anniversary of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s famous advertising campaign.
Embattled Emblem: The Army of Northern Virginia Battle Flag, 1861-Present
Robert E. Lee led the Army of Northern Virginia under this St. Andrew Cross-patterned battle flag, the use of which is the hottest issue relating to the Civil War in modern media and truly defines the public perception of Confederate history today. This exhibition traced the flag’s evolution from its historical origins to its changing symbolism in postwar modern culture.
Fourteen States, Fourteen Flags
This display of unusual flag patterns included one for each Confederate state.
Views of the Confederate Experience
- Life of a Landmark: Images of the Confederate White House – Photographs and sketches of the exterior of the White House of the Confederacy from 1865 to 1988 gave a unique glimpse into the life of the historic landmark.
- Artist of the “Lost Cause”: William Ludwell Sheppard’s Confederate Watercolors – Watercolors by artist and Confederate veteran William Ludwell Sheppard depicted the daily life of the Confederate soldier.
- Infantry, Cavalry, and Artillery: Combat Arms of the Confederacy – The full equipage of the common soldiers in each of the three major branches of the Confederate army was exhibited.
- Emblems of Southern Statehood – This display consisted of the seals of the Confederate states as depicted on wartime objects and documents.
- Sun Up to Sun Up: African-American Daily Life, 1860-1865 – A scaled down version of Before Freedom Came, this exhibit told the story of slaves and free blacks during the Civil War era.
Virginia Cavalry Flags
State, national, and unit flags from regiments, battalions, and companies of Virginia cavalry were on view.
Before Freedom Came
This exhibition was the first ever, comprehensive exhibit on African and African-American life in the antebellum south. It utilized the latest research to explore the lives of this substantial element of the Confederate nation’s population. Underwritten by two grants by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the show brought national acclaim and the American Library Association named the companion book one of the outstanding nonfiction titles of 1991.
Designed as an accompaniment to the exhibition, this 200 page book provides a rich collection of essays, pictures and research. Purchase it online here.
Flags of the Western Theater
Selections from the Museum’s permanent collections illustrated the diversity of flags used by Confederate units fighting west of the Appalachians.
This display in the Museum’s flag gallery featured the wide variety of headquarters flags in the Museum collections.
The original oil paintings of South Carolina generals by Richmond artist David Silvette were commissioned by the South Carolina legislature in 1941.
Americans at War
This exhibit was a series of displays comparing the Confederate and Federal military items.
A Century of Collecting
A series of small displays featured relics, curiosities, miniature flags, sewing implements, and other items donated to the Museum early in its history.
The Confederate Bureaucracy
Guests were introduced to the Confederate cabinet departments and secretaries.
Flags of the Confederacy
The inaugural exhibit in the newly-opened flag gallery highlighted the diversity of flag patterns.
The Confederate Image: Prints of the Lost Cause
This traveling exhibition of Confederate prints was based on the book of the same name by Mark E. Neely, Jr., Harold Holzer, and Gabor S. Boritt.
Victory In Defeat: Jefferson Davis and the Lost Cause
Supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, this exhibit examined the role of the Jefferson Davis family in the Museum’s founding and early years.
Women in Mourning
A cooperative venture with the state sponsored exhibit, A Share of Honor: Virginia Women 1600-1945, this collection of objects evoked a strong sense of experiences of mourning in 19th century Virginia. Explore the traditions associated with women mourning their lost loved-ones.
Old Times Here: The South as Depicted in the Collections of the Valentine Museum and The Museum of the Confederacy
Featuring the works of Conrad Wise Chapman, William D. Washington, Allen Christian Redwood, and William Ludwell Sheppard, this jointly sponsored exhibit highlighted the rich collections of Richmond’s two oldest museums.
A semi-permanent exhibit, it featured highlights from the Museum’s collection of swords, revolvers, and long arms.
People of the Confederacy
This exhibit on artisans, yeoman farmers, planter aristocrats, merchants and manufacturers, slaves and free blacks, women, and soldiers was one of the first modern social history exhibits in a Southern history museum.