In May of 2015 the Cincinnati Museum Center opened the fourth installment of its Treasures series, Treasures of our Military Past. In this exhibit we used the Cincinnati Museum Center’s history collections to tell stories of Cincinnati, its people, organizations and businesses and their contributions to the military history of the United States of America. Items were selected not only for their unique nature but also for the stories they told. Though we are quite proud of our five presidential documents and our rare printing of the Declaration of Independence in this exhibit there are also stories about common people that stepped up and did the work that needed to be done. There are stories of audacious escapes, narrow misses and behind the scenes stories of workers that assisted and created the tools the soldiers used in the war effort.
Selecting the items for Treasures of our Military Past was a difficult part of the exhibit process for the curators. There are countless wonderful items and stories in our collection that could not all fit into the exhibit. This online exhibit highlights just a sampling of those items.
The Cincinnati Museum Center has extensive manuscript collections documenting the War of 1812. The letters to Col. Robert Patterson, an early settler in our region, and the quartermaster report were selected because they hold a vast amount of fascinating detail for a war many today are unfamiliar with. They are also a reminder of the daily necessities without which a war cannot be fought.
All of the letters showcase the humanity of those involved in historical events and their times. Elizabeth Broadwell’s breathless description of preparations during the Siege of Cincinnati in the Civil War shows the excitement, fear and uncertainties during life in wartime. Elsa Bateman’s newsy letters pain a lively picture of American aid workers and soldiers in World War I era France. All of the letters are reminders that normal people stand behind the big events of history. They served their country when asked and then went home, often quite humble about the role they played.
We hope that both exhibits provide a glimpse of some of the wonderful documents and artifacts that we at the Cincinnati Museum Center are so honored to work with every day. We hope that you enjoy them as much as we do.
For more information about these wars please see our popular topic journal articles on the Cincinnati History Library and Archives’ website. http://library.cincymuseum.org/topics/populartopics.htm