FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 31, 2009
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Patience is a Virtue
Years after Asking, VHS Receives Entire Civil War Drawings Collection as Donation
Richmond, VA—As the commonwealth prepares for the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War in 2011, the Virginia Historical Society (VHS) has made a dramatic addition to its already impressive Civil War collection. Two decades after requesting that a collection of Civil War drawings by Edwin Forbes be given to the VHS, the current owner donated the entire group. Some of the original pen-and-ink illustrations will be included in An American Turning Point: The Civil War in Virginia, an exhibition organized by the VHS for the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission, which will travel around the state after opening at the society in 2011.
"Any time a private collection comes to an institution open to the public, it is a win-win situation," said Paul Levengood, Virginia Historical Society President and CEO. "This just shows that the pathway to our collections sometimes takes years, even decades. Eventually people realize that the VHS can protect and preserve objects and materials for future generations to enjoy. This collection gives us even more material to offer the general public during the 150th anniversary commemoration as a tool to understand the Civil War and its effects on Virginia."
John Edwin Forbes (1835—1895), a New York resident, began to study art in 1857, painting mostly animals, landscapes, and scenes of everyday life. In 1862 Forbes was hired as an illustrator for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. From 1862 to 1864, he was a member of "Bohemian Brigade," the name given to reporters who followed northern armies into battle in the South. Forbes spent two-and-a-half years in Virginia, traveling mostly with the Army of the Potomac, documenting camp life during the Civil War.
Forbes completed more than 300 sketches drawn in the field. These pencil sketches are at the Library of Congress. After the war, Forbes created pen-in-ink illustrations from his sketches. In 1889, Forbes produced a book, Thirty Years After: An Artist’s Memoir of the Civil War, with almost all of his pen-in-ink drawings. The VHS received 156 of the original illustrations featured in the book.
"This gift couldn't have come at a better time because the society is playing a large role in preparing the state’s Civil War 150th exhibition,” said VHS Director of Museums James Kelly. "Virginia was at the epicenter of the Civil War. Americans will turn to the commonwealth to learn how an event that occurred 150 years ago still influences us today."
An American Turning Point: The Civil War in Virginia, an exhibition organized by the Virginia Historical Society and funded, in part, by the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission, will be on display at the VHS from February 4 to December 30, 2011. After leaving the VHS, the exhibition travels to museums in Manassas, Roanoke, Appomattox, Winchester, Hampton, Abingdon, and Lynchburg.
Using original objects, interactive media, and state-of-the-art technology, An American Turning Point: The Civil War in Virginia relates the personal experiences of the free and enslaved men, women, and children of wartime Virginia. Visitors are encouraged to imagine Virginia at the center of a military and social revolution and consider what was lost, what was gained, what was decided, and what was left uncertain. How freedom, liberty, patriotism, and nation are defined today is directly related to the diverse experiences of the individuals who participated in the Civil War.
"While many people—especially Civil War enthusiasts—have seen copies or prints of the Edwin Forbes drawings, there is nothing like seeing the original in person—the details, the quality, the clarity," said Levengood. "The VHS is immensely grateful to the donor for ensuring that the public will now have that opportunity. We hope to exhibit a large majority of the drawings from the collection we received in a show dedicated solely to Forbes’s work in 2012 or 2013, after the Civil War 150th exhibition closes in Richmond."
The Virginia Historical Society is located at 428 N. Boulevard. The Story of Virginia, An American Experience, a 10,000-square-foot exhibition with more than a thousand objects covering all of Virginia history from prehistoric
times to the present is featured in the Robins Center for Virginia History. Hours: Tuesday–Saturday 10 am–5 pm
and Sunday 1 pm–5pm (Museum Galleries and Shop only). Admission: $5/adults, $4/seniors 55+ ($2/Tuesdays–galleries
only), $3/children and students, free/members. Admission to the galleries is free on Sundays. For group tour
information, call (804) 342-9652. For more information, please call (804) 358-4901 or visit www.vahistorical.org.