As the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War approaches the Indiana
State Museum looks back on life and death on the mid-19th century. It was a
rainy morning on March 4, 1861 for the Nineteenth Inaugural Ceremony, and
Abraham Lincoln understood the turmoil brewing between the states. As the day
wore on the skies cleared, yet the threat of secession by the South was
clearly on Lincoln's mind when he took the pedestal to give his Inaugural
Address. "One section of our country believes slavery is right and ought to be
extended, while the other believes it is wrong and ought not to be extended.
This is the only substantial dispute."
In the Indiana State Museum's exhibit, So Costly a Sacrifice; Lincoln and Loss, they share over 100 artifacts from the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection and the Museum’s core collection of cultural artifacts. An intriguing aspect of this exhibition is the way America mourned the loss of loved ones, and the President himself.
Disease claimed many lives, and child birth at the time contributed to the death of many women. The diseases at the time included Whooping cough, Malaria, Yellow Fever, Small Pox, and Typhoid, which killed Lincoln's son, and claimed the lives of families across the country. Although, male children were likely to live longer, productive lives if they reached adolescence, this change dramatically during the Civil War.
This is not a dark exhibit, but one that looks close at the Victorian America’s approach to human mortality. It was a time when women mourned in three stages that included heavy or deep mourning, full mourning, and half mourning. In the case of their husband's, women would mourn for almost two and half years. The stages of mourning differed according to the relation of the departed. With ongoing threat of disease and the loss of lives in the Civil War, women were almost in a constant state of mourning.
The Indiana State Museum's exhibit, So Costly a Sacrifice; Lincoln and Loss, also reveals how President Abraham Lincoln was a symbol of hope for the country at war. Upon his death, his body boarded a train for burial in Springfield, Illinois along with his son's body, and made several stops across the nation, where people lined up to pay their respects. In some cases, people collected items believed to be Lincoln's to help them deal with the death of the country's martyr.
It is also interesting how quickly word spread of his death via telegraph. Suddenly, everyone was a part of the tragedy; one which struck at the heart of the country rising out of turmoil. Each piece within the exhibit opens up a opportunity to engage in a conversation about how we embrace death, and carry with us the memory of those we've lost.
By Melody Schubert
To explore this exhibit and others at the
Indiana State Museum, as well as events, and IMAX showing times and
tickets visit http://www.indianamuseum.org.
Discover more about the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection via this link.
If you would like to learn more about President Abraham Lincoln's Inaugural Address use this link.