The American Civil War was fought from 1861 to 1865. The 150th anniversary will take place from 2011 through 2015. There is still plenty of time to plan events big and small at your museum. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Even if you donít have any Civil War artifacts in your collection, there are other museums and private collectors who do. There are going to be a lot of Civil War themed exhibitions in the next few years, so make yours unique by focusing on local history. Display artifacts, photographs, letters or diaries from people who lived in your region.
Write a play based on a Civil War theme using primary materials from your collection. Or do a dramatic reading of some of the letters from Civil War soldiers. It is quite rare to find a complete set of letters to and from home Ė if you have anything like that in your collection, USE IT!
There are tons of Civil War re-enactors in almost every community. They are usually looking for additional places to set up camps or re-create battles. If the entire group isnít available, you might be able to get an individual to come in to do a program on his uniform or camp life. They take their hobby very seriously and do a great deal of research to make everything accurate.
There have been many books written about the Civil War. Pick a few and set up a book discussion series. When making a list, include a combination of non-fiction and historical fiction to appeal to different groups of people. Consider passing out a list of questions for discussion ahead of time so people will be able to prepare in advance.
There have been almost as many movies made about the Civil War as there are books! Choose a few to create a series of movie screenings followed by a discussion. Invite history department faculty from local colleges to lead a round table discussion.
Organize a trip to one of the iconic Civil War sites like Gettysburg or Fort Sumter. Check for special events ahead of time and plan your trip around those. Many museums and historical sites are planning programming to commemorate this important anniversary, so take advantage of what other people are doing!