You can keep the lessons of history alive

The Memorial Military Murals, by Charles Hoffbauer (1875–1957), are an American treasure. They are an example of how elements of the United States population created a mythology to overcome the pain and destruction of our bloodiest conflict. They are a preeminent visual artistic symbol of what has come to be known as the "Lost Cause," a southern response to defeat in the American Civil War.

The murals were commissioned by the Confederate Memorial Association and painted between 1913 and 1920. Hoffbauer left in the middle of his work to fight for his native France in World War I. When he returned, a weary soldier who now knew the horrors of the trench, he altered his plans for the murals to depict the more violent, bloody reality of war.

With the exception of the cycloramas at Gettysburg and Grant Park in Atlanta, there are few large-scale pieces of Civil War artwork on public view. Their scale alone would make them important pieces, but their content and context are even more important.

And the time to embark on the conservation of these monumental symbols of a troubled and complex past is now. In fact, restoring the murals is urgent. We are running out of time. Hoffbauer's murals were painted directly onto canvas that had been glued to plaster walls.

Important cleaning and conservation work has started, thanks to a Save America's Treasures grant awarded by a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Park Service, Department of the Interior. The grant comes with a challenge to match it with private support—with your support.

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