These words have been ringing in my ears for a few months now. The Civil War Exhibit in Archives and Special Collections has been my project and, quite honestly, my life. This exhibit really allowed me the chance to research and show my skills as a historian professionally, but also allowed me the chance to work with an amazing crew of people. And, seriously, this exhibit is awesome.
The foundation for the exhibit emerged from the 2006 Kirkham Lecture that Frank A. Bracken gave in 2006. The title of the exhibit as well as family and memorabilia backgrounds came from Frank’s talk. The video is a part of the exhibit and is playing throughout the week on a monitor in Archives.
I am not, by any means, a Civil War buff nor have I ever claimed to be, but the opportunity to research the Bracken family legacy from Lieutenant William H. Bracken, who served in the war, up to his great-grandson Frank A. Bracken who reenacted and collected Civil War has been incredible. The collection currently details the life and occupation of Frank A. Bracken as Secretary of the Interior and how that led him to become so involved with battlefield preservation and, later, Civil War reenactment; the items displayed range from Frank’s personal photos and documents to the vast amount of Civil War books and preservation accounts. Frank’s collection includes his reenactment uniforms, hats, and even weapons, but also houses two swords that belonged to William H. Bracken during the Civil War.
I could not be prouder of the exhibit that was put together. The opening on December 1st included notable guests such as President Ferguson and his wife, multiple Board Members, distinguished members of the community and special guests Judy Bracken (Frank’s wife) and Tom Bracken (Frank’s son) as well as his family. The main attraction for the opening was not just the Civil War items; personal items of the Bracken family were carefully selected and placed out on the tables. These included photographs of multiple Bracken generations, extended family photos and documents, and even a selection of Bracken diaries.
The evening concluded with an incredible talk given by Dr. Nicole Etcheson and she discussed her book A Generation at War (which is a part of the Civil War collection currently on display!) This collection really is awesome…you should come see it now!
Some quick notes about the exhibit:
Title: “On the Battlefield, We Became a Nation:” Frank A. Bracken Civil War Collection
Where: Archives and Special Collections, 2nd Floor in Bracken
When: December 1st– January 31st, outside display cases are viewable during library hours, inner cases (with uniforms and weapons) are viewable during Archives’ hours (8-8 Monday and Tuesday, 8-6 Wednesday-Friday)
Why: Because it is an incredible collection and assortment of Civil War and Frank Bracken items and it really shows the generous nature of the Brackens and the tenacity of Ball State’s Archivists.
That’s right folks, you can check out the Civil War portion of the exhibit online! Head on over to the Digital Media Repository (The DMR) and take a look for yourself from the comfort of your own home!
Hope to see you stop by!