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Civil War vintage photo exhibit opens

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Battery No. 4 near Yorktown, Virginia, from Alexander Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War

Images of slaves and anti-slavery activists, portraits of the two presidents of the Civil War period, scenes of military encampments, and landscapes of major Civil War battles are just some of the vintage photographs in a new exhibit coming to Cummings Gallery at Mercyhurst University this summer.

From June 12 through Aug. 3, Cummings will host a traveling exhibit from the George Eastman House/International Museum of Photography titled “Between the States: Photographs of the American Civil War.”

An opening reception on Thursday, June 12, from 7 to 9 p.m. is free and open to the public.

Organized by Gary Cardot, assistant professor of art, and Gallery Director Heather Dana, the exhibit was made possible by a grant from the Rev. Sylvester Jaworski Endowment.

The exhibit includes 10 images by famous Civil War photographer Alexander Gardner from his “Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War.”  There are also more than a dozen photographs by Mathew Brady, as well as a poignant battlefield image by Timothy O’Sullivan, the great photographer of the American West.

The photographs were created before the era of glass plates and represent ambrotypes, albumen prints, lantern slides, carte de visites and tintypes in facsimile reproductions so well executed that viewers cannot tell an original from a re-photographed image.

An abundance of wall text provides historical and photographic context for the images.  Also on display are artifacts on loan from the Erie County Historical Society.

Anyone who is interested in the history of our country and loves images that tell the story will thoroughly enjoy taking in the vast array of buildings, personalities, battles and terrain that made up the Civil War. The images of soldiers who probably didn’t survive the war and whose photographs were found in the “dead letter office” of the Post Office are particularly moving.

Cummings Gallery, located in the lobby of the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center, is open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the summer. For more information, contact Gary Cardot at 824-2529.