In 2009, the Civil War Museum of Philadelphia began an extensive project to conserve material in the Museum’s collection thanks to a generous $150,000 grant from the federal “Save America’s Treasures” grant program along with matching funds from the William Penn Foundation. The two-year project will conserve and rehouse high priority items, including manuscripts, photographs, paintings, flags, uniforms, and weapons of the Union officers who founded the Museum in the 19th century.
Save America’s Treasures aims to preserve the important and irreplaceable physical reminders of America’s history, ensuring that future generations may learn from and enjoy them. In awarding funds to the Civil War Museum of Philadelphia, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) recognized the Museum’s collection of Civil War documents and artifacts as one of the finest in the country.
The Museum partnered with the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts to design and manage the project. Treatment has been completed on the Tiffany-created sword presented to General Ulysses S. Grant by his officers after the Union victory at Vicksburg, along with its elegant ebony case; General George Gordon Meade’s topographical and presentation swords; and General John F. Reynolds’s sword belt. Preservation of extraordinary first-person accounts of troop movements, battles, concerns about family and the home front, and trenchant observations of politics in the Union Army are captured in the newly conserved letters from Francis Adams Donaldson, the journals kept by Carlton Birch and the Maj. George Meade, Jr., Album of Union and Confederate Officers, the most complete photographic record of the Union army. Treatment is currently underway on General Meade’s frock coat, slouch hat, and sash; on sashes that belonged to Grant and Reynolds; and on Confederate President Jefferson Davis’s smoking jacket.
Established by Executive Order in 1998, Save America’s Treasures is administered through a public-private partnership that includes the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Park Service, the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, and the federal cultural agencies: IMLS, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Grants are awarded through a competitive process and require a dollar-for-dollar match. IMLS is administering the grant for the Civil War Museum of Philadelphia; click here to read IMLS’s press release for the award announcement.