Saturday, June 20, 2009

“Fellow Citizens”

June must be the month for Frank White the Photographer and history. Yesterday, White and I visited the Museum of Southern History (whose existence we didn’t suspect, so much for advertising!) for a traveling exhibition about Generals Robert E Lee and Ulysses S Grant (which neither of us had ever heard of). No pictures were taken.

But we did see a well-executed traveling exhibition, of quite high quality, in an unlikely place.

The campus of Houston Baptist University is, on the one hand, not exactly the spot for a museum of any kind. It turns out to have…three, the “University Museums.” I wonder, though, if HBU’s Dunham Bible Museum (a pearl of a presentation, BTW) will get the play that this exhibit will generate. Houston doesn’t get much Civil War action, exhibit-wise. It looked to me as though there’ll be steady traffic by people who have done a lot of ACW reading and touring.

HBU Curator Erin Price and her team have done good work fitting the Virginia Historical Society-New York Historical Society exhibit into the Uni’s space. There are some great artifacts: General Grant's handwritten terms of surrender to Lee on April 9, 1865 best of all. (You can read about these here.)

Extra enjoyment: Take advantage of The University Museums docents’ pleasant tour. It’ll give you an excellent overview – even though it’s asking a lot of a 30-minute oral presentation to cover decades of issues and history. Then you can wander the compact exhibition at your leisure.

There’s enough before-and-after the actual battles of the Civil War about each man so you get a sense of the two men as humans, not simply heroes. And there’s a bit of a goal overall. This first exhibition to present Grant and Lee together intends for us to consider how they “became” American ideals. They became fellow citizens and they worked at it.

That 1900 cigar label nails it: A great attempt at marketing a solution to the sectional differences that, 30+ years after the War, were hardly at rest. Look, July 4th is just around the corner of the calendar. See if you can squeeze in a visit to “Lee and Grant.”

“Fellow Citizens,” inner cigar box label with full-color profile portraits of Confederate and Union Civil War generals Lee and Grant; chromolithographed and embossed on coated stock. By Calvert Lithographic Company. Considered one of the icons of Civil War cigar box label sets for its subject matter, artistic beauty and technical merit. From PBA Galleries with thanks.

1 comment:

Martha Morrow said...

Thank you Mr. Baron for your mention – and you’re right – we haven’t advertised the museums too much except for very targeted audiences – our primary marketing budget is focused on student recruitment.

However, this is a wonderful exhibit and we were blessed to have a few dollars to spend. Glad you enjoyed the exhibit.