CG: Merchant’s House Museum Extends New York’s Civil War Soldiers Exhibit

July 18, 2011 - by NYC News Desk
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Thanks to an overwhelming response from visitors, the Merchant's House Museum, in partnership with The Burns Archive, will extend the exhibition of photographs of wounded New York soldiers by army surgeon and native New Yorker Dr. Reed B. Bontecou that opened in April to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. More-than 100 images of human ruination are captioned with quotations from Walt Whitman's 1882 memoir, Specimen Days, in which he recounts his own horrifying experience as a volunteer nurse. According to Whitman, "The real war will never get in the books."

Bontecou's graphic portraits of the wounded - on display for the first time since the 19th century, when they became national icons during the 1876 Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia - make vivid the intensely human tragedy of the Civil War, a war fought on our own soil, citizen against citizen, and highlight sacrifices made by American soldiers and their families.

The exhibition also features historic photographs of New York regiments, including the legendary 7th Regiment National Guard. New York provided more soldiers than any other state (nearly half a million) and sustained the greatest number of casualties, winning 382 Congressional Medals of Honor. A Civil War surgical operating set, memorabilia of Dr. Bontecou, first-edition books on New York in the war, and rare newspapers will also be shown.

The Bontecou images are from the collection of Dr. Stanley B. Burns, The Burns Archive. Dr. Burns's new book, Shooting Soldiers: Civil War Medical Photography, by R.B. Bontecou, showcases Bontecou's stirring photographs - which go beyond the mere presentation of their intended subject, the patient's wound, to rival the work of portrait photographers like Matthew Brady.

An auxiliary display about New York's 7th Regiment features highlights from The Siege of Washington: The Untold Story of the Twelve Days That Shook the Union, by John Lockwood and Charles Lockwood, which describes the 7th Regiment's epic journey from New York to Washington to save the Union capital at the outset of the Civil War in April 1861.
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About the Merchant's House Museum
Celebrating Our 75th Year as Museum (1936-2011)
The Merchant's House Museum is New York City's only family home preserved intact - inside and out - from the mid-19th century. Home to a prosperous merchant-class family and their staff of four (mostly Irish) servants for almost 100 years, it is complete with the family's original furnishings and personal possessions, offering a rare and intimate glimpse of domestic life from 1835-1865.

"Not so much a museum as a raw slice of history" AVENUE Magazine
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About the Burns Archive
In addition to being an internationally distinguished author, curator, historian, collector, publisher, and archivist, Dr. Stanley B. Burns, MD, FACS, is a New York City ophthalmologist and Clinical Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center. In 1975 he began collecting historic photography. In 1977 he founded The Burns Archive to share his discoveries and began his writing and publishing career. Dr. Burns' collection of vintage photographs (1840-1950) has been generally recognized as the most important private comprehensive collection of early photography. It has been showcased in numerous national media venues worldwide. Artists, researchers and historians can access the one million+ photographs. The images have been the source of numerous Hollywood feature films, documentaries and museum exhibitions. Dr. Burns has authored forty photo-historical texts and curated more than fifty photographic exhibitions. He has been a founding donor of photography collections, including the J.P. Getty Museum and The Bronx Museum of the Arts. He spends his time lecturing, creating exhibits, and writing books on underappreciated areas of history and photography.
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