The Civil War Museum was housed at 18th and Pine Streets in Philadelphia until 2008, when it closed in anticipation of building a new museum in Philadelphia. An opening in 2014 is planned for the new museum. While the museum is closed, the collection is being cared for by the Gettysburg Foundation and stored at the Gettysburg Battlefield Museum and Visitors Center, where a special exhibition of material from the collection is planned for 2013. Artifacts are also on exhibit in Philadelphia at the new National Museum of American Jewish History and the African American Museum in Philadelphia.
The National Museum of American Jewish History, which recently reopened in a new building on Philadelphia's Independence Mall, explores the American Jewish experience throughout every phase of the country's history. The gallery titled "Union and Disunion," on the Museum's fourth floor, examines the participation of American Jews on both sides of the Civil War. The Union uniform worn by Dr. Jacob Da Silva Solis-Cohen (1838-1927) is on loan from the Civil War Museum of Philadelphia.
The library and much of the archival material, including the MOLLUS archives, are on long-term loan to the library of the Civil War Heritage Center at the Union League of Philadelphia which is scheduled to open in 2012.
The Civil War Museum of Philadelphia has one of the most significant collections of Civil War artifacts in the country, in fact the largest collection of significant artifacts and archival material outside of government hands. Harold Holzer, noted Civil War historian and Co-Chair of the United States Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, said of the collection: “The Civil War Museum's collection is truly an American treasure”.
Comprising some 3,000 artifacts, several thousand photographs, hundreds of works of art, scores of maps and charts, and nearly 100 linear feet of letters, diaries, muster rolls and other archival materials, the collections of the Civil War Museum of Philadelphia rank among the largest and most comprehensive in the United States. More than 80 percent of the materials came to the Museum directly from Civil War veterans, or their descendants. The collections hail from every state involved in the Union side of the war, and also include a small yet significant body of materials from the Confederate side. Prominent individuals such as Abraham Lincoln, General George Meade, Jr., General Ulysses S. Grant, and Rear Admiral George Melville are represented, along with hundreds of other individuals whose names are less familiar, but whose heroism and contribution were no less distinguished.
The bulk of the Museum’s collections document the military experiences of individuals during the war. It includes an extensive armory collection of firearms, edged weapons, and ammunition; officers and enlisted soldiers’ uniforms, field equipment and utensils; battle and regimental flags and banners; recruiting posters and commissions; badges and insignia; escutcheons (military coats of arms); surgical tools and pharmaceutical materials; military band instruments; and other souvenirs from battlefields and prisoner of war camps.
The collection also shows the War’s impact on civilian life. Letters and journals describe housewives’ struggles to raise a family, make ends meet, and cope with loneliness and loss. Nurses’ field kits, equipment and supplies produced by female war workers tell the important story of the role that women played in the conflict, and children’s clothing and schoolbooks, shed light on other aspects of life on the home front.
In the decades leading up to the war, thousands of individuals struggled to oppose slavery and to seek freedom, or help others find it, through the campaign for abolition and the Underground Railroad. Noteworthy materials in the collections relating to these efforts include memoirs and autobiographies of abolitionists, copies of The Liberator, the leading antislavery newspaper published by William Lloyd Garrison, and a rare first edition of William Still’s classic book, The Underground Rail Road, published in 1872.