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The National Archives combines 21st-century technology with 19th-century ephemera for a ne­w interactive sesquicentennial exhibition the department calls “the most extensive display ever assembled” from its massive Civil War collection.View the patent for artifical limbs at the exhibit. National Archives.

The Archives might seem an unconventional place to find the human dimension of the war. But Discovering the Civil War uses touch-screens and social media tools to give visitors a rare glimpse into letters, diaries,
maps, photos, official documents and other artifacts that reveal little-known details of the war years and the people who lived through them.

Arranged by themes—“Spies and Conspiracies,” “Prisoners and Casualties,” “Emancipation,” “Global War” and “Raising Armies”—the exhibit will be displayed in two parts. The first is on display at the National Archives Building in Washington through September 6. The second opens in November and runs to April 2011. The rarely seen original Emancipation Proclamation will be displayed for three days during the second part of the exhibit.

In addition to the exhibit itself, Archives officials plan a number of free public programs, including lectures, family days, panel discussions and a Civil War film series. A special exhibition catalogue is scheduled for release this fall.

The exhibition is presented by the Center for the National Archives Experience and the Foundation for the National Archives. The National Archives Building is on the National Mall on Constitution Avenue at 9th Street. Exhibit hall hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Labor Day; winter hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Can’t make it to Washington? Watch for a major multicity tour in 2011.
For more information, visit the National Archives Web site at