Hunter Library and the Mountain Heritage Center showcase Civil War relics

One-hundred and fifty years ago, our nation was riveted in the dividing thralls of the “War Between the States,” or more commonly known as the “Civil War.” In remembrance of the 150th year anniversary of the Civil War, Hunter Library has added a new exhibit featuring artifacts from around the time of the war, donated by the Mountain Heritage Center, as well as books from the library itself.

The exhibit is located in the hallway behind Java City and holds a vast assortment of relics obtained mainly from families in Jackson County and surrounding counties. There are also pamphlets and historical texts pertaining to the Civil War, as well as books composed of diary entries and letters from Confederate soldiers and civilians. The exhibition’s presentation of these various items reflects what life was like not only in the war and on the battlefield but at home as well.

In order to further delve into the exhibit’s origin and significance, The Western Carolinian had the opportunity to speak with Peter Koch, the Education Associate at the Mountain Heritage Center.

“The idea of the exhibit is to represent aspects of the Civil War as it affected people in Western North Carolina,” said Koch. “Both those who went off to fight and those who stayed home during the war. The artifacts on display represent a small selection of the over 10,000 artifacts the Mountain Heritage Center holds – most of which are not about Civil War topics, of course.

“Ninety-five percent of these artifacts were donated by local families to Western Carolina University and the Mountain Heritage Center,” continued Koch, “in particular for preservation of the future … so as to educate students and the community about the life and culture of Western North Carolina. The ones on display in particular are from the 1850s and 1860s and showcase the Civil War and life during the war on the home front.”

Aside from educating Western Carolina’s student body about the Civil War’s influence on the residents of Western North Carolina, Hunter Library’s Civil War Exhibit also serves to assist students in their education here at WCU.

“The artifacts should be of interest to any student interested in the Civil War, i.e. the things people used, of the 19th century, particularly History and Anthropology majors,” said Koch. “The civilian quilt and coverlet might especially be appreciated by art majors. It is always interesting to see and learn from artifacts used by people in a particular period of history as opposed to simply reading books or articles or listening to lectures.

“I think the Jackson County community will enjoy seeing these items,” continued Koch, “since a couple of them are actually from Jackson County families, while the rest come from families in the surrounding counties. So, people who have deep roots in mountain communities might well appreciate seeing items similar to those that their own ancestors might have used or created.”

Koch expressed appreciation and wished to thank the Hunter Library for their space to showcase the artifacts.

“Since we’re in the 150th anniversary of the war, there is heightened interest in this topic and its significance to life even today,” said Koch. “A topic that seems to have happened such a long time ago, it is important to be able to grasp or at least see. For a number of the artifacts on display, we actually know who made or carried these artifacts, making their significance even greater.”

Next time you find yourself in the library, be sure to check out the exhibit after grabbing a treat from Java City. Not only do the artifacts hold a lot of information about their past, but one can find themselves relating a little to the owners.

However, the Civil War Exhibit is on display for a limited time and will be taken down after the current semester, so hurry up and see it when you can.