New Civil War Exhibits Open at Sullivan Museum

Norwich University museum celebrates opening of fifth and final exhibition in Civil War series and related show by artist Kara Walker
January 15, 2015


NORTHFIELD, Vt.–Norwich University’s Sullivan Museum and History Center invites the public to celebrate the opening of a new exhibit, “1865, Out of the Ashes: Assassination, Reconstruction, and Healing the Nation,” with a reception on Friday, January 23 from 5-7 p.m.

The exhibit, which focuses on the aftermath of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the rehabilitation and restoration of the South, and efforts to unify the country, is the fifth and final exhibition in the museum’s series commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

A centerpiece of the new exhibition is a unique and rare firearm recently acquired by the Sullivan Museum and History Center: a Spencer repeating rifle. Possibly tested by President Lincoln himself, the weapon had remained in private hands for several generations and will now be on public view for the first time since the Civil War. The rifle was itself an important part of Civil War history. Adopted by Union troops, it allowed for more accurate and rapid firing. The Spencer rifle now on view was an early issue, originally given to Lincoln by the manufacturer and later gifted by Lincoln to Gideon Welles, NU’1826, in recognition of his Civil War service as Secretary of the Navy.

In addition to the rifle, historical objects from Ford’s Theater, a brass cannon used during the Civil War and period currency loaned by the Hon. John W. Walter will be included in the exhibition.

Kara Walker Prints

The museum is also pleased to concurrently present a separate complementary exhibition of pictorial works by contemporary African American artist Kara Walker, made possible through the generous support of Tawani Foundation Endowment Funds.

“Kara Walker: Juxtaposition, Contemporary Specters, and Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War,” features contemporary works on loan from Mount Holyoke College.  The artist combined her signature overlays of black silhouettes with historic lithography to produce poignant and sharp commentary on stereotypes found in the nation’s history of slavery, Jim Crow and segregation that still infiltrate present stereotypes.

Both exhibits will remain on display until July 31, 2015. Visitors exploring the museum will find a blackboard to engage in ongoing discussion about the legacies of the Civil War and Reconstruction that still affect society today.

Plan Your Visit

The Sullivan Museum and History Center is a Smithsonian Affiliate, the only such museum in the state of Vermont. (See related article.) The museum is located on the Northfield campus of Norwich University. It is open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the academic year. There is no charge for admission to the museum. For more information call 802.485.2183 or visit the museum’s website ( or Facebook page (