Exhibits at Historic Tredegar
A People’s Contest: Struggles for Nation and Freedom in Civil War America
Our new 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.
A unique feature of the exhibit are the large-scale colorized photos, designed to give the visitor a better sense of the actual people who experienced the Civil War. Also notable is the recurring “fracturing” motif, with irregular shapes and sharp angles that serve as a metaphor for the splintering of the Union. Interpretative text is relatively minimal and the color palette is modern.
This temporary exhibit tells the story of how the United States’ decision on how to pay off the Civil War transformed the relationship between government, the economy, banks, and citizens. A visually stunning display of the story is presented through an imaginative and artful arrangement of many pieces of money.
The introductory section uses infographics to feature the chaotic antebellum monetary system which was inconsistently regulated by state and banks. Using poems, songs, cartoons, jokes and newspaper clippings, visitors will explore how Americans assigned cultural meaning to money and how doing so helped them interpret politics, patriotism and race. The final section uses a cursory survey of the 20th century to prompt visitors to think about the ways that technological transformations are reshaping our relationship with money.