Merchant’s House Museum
29 East Fourth Street, NYC 10003 212-777-1089 Fax 212-777-1104 merchantshouse.org
Exhibition: New York’s Civil War Soldiers –
Photographs of Dr. R. B. Bontecou, Words of Walt Whitman
Thursday, April 14, through Monday, July 31, 2011
NEW YORK – February 3, 2011 – In April 2011, 150 years after the start of the American Civil War (1861-1865), the Merchant’s House Museum, in partnership with The Burns Archive and the release of Shooting Soldiers: Civil War Medical Photography, by R.B. Bontecou, will present an exhibition of medical photographs of wounded New York soldiers by army surgeon and native New Yorker Dr. Reed B. Bontecou. The more-than 100 images of human ruination will be captioned with quotations from Walt Whitman’s 1882 memoir, Specimen Days, in which he recounts his own horrifying experience as a volunteer nurse. According to Whitman, “The real war will never get in the books.”
Bontecou’s graphic portraits of the wounded – on display for the first time since the 19th century, when they became national icons during the 1876 Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia – make vivid the intensely human tragedy of the Civil War, a war fought on our own soil, citizen against citizen, and highlight sacrifices made by American soldiers and their families.
The exhibition will also feature historic photographs of New York regiments; New York provided more soldiers than any other state (nearly half a million) and sustained the greatest number of casualties, winning 382 Congressional Medals of Honor. An image of Dr. Mary Walker, the only woman to receive the Medal of Honor, will be on display. A Civil War surgical operating set, memorabilia of Dr. Bontecou, first-edition books on New York in the war, and rare newspapers will also be shown.
The Bontecou images are from the collection of Dr. Stanley B. Burns, The Burns Archive. Dr. Burns’s new book, Shooting Soldiers: Civil War Medical Photography, by R.B. Bontecou, showcases Bontecou’s stirring photographs – which go beyond the mere presentation of their intended subject, the patient’s wound, to rival the work of portrait photographers like Matthew Brady.
About the Merchant’s House Museum
Celebrating Our 75th Year as Museum (1936-2011)
The Merchant's House Museum is New York City's only family home preserved intact — inside and out — from the mid-19th century. Home to a prosperous merchant-class family and their staff of four (mostly Irish) servants for almost 100 years, it is complete with the family's original furnishings and personal possessions, offering a rare and intimate glimpse of domestic life from 1835-1865.
“Not so much a museum as a raw slice of history” AVENUE Magazine
On the web: www.merchantshouse.org
About the Burns Archive
In addition to being an internationally distinguished author, curator, historian, collector, publisher, and archivist, Dr. Stanley B. Burns, MD, FACS, is a New York City ophthalmologist and Clinical Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center. In 1975 he began collecting historic photography. In 1977 he founded The Burns Archive to share his discoveries and began his writing and publishing career. Dr. Burns’ collection of vintage photographs (1840-1950) has been generally recognized as the most important private comprehensive collection of early photography. It has been showcased in numerous national media venues worldwide. Artists, researchers and historians can access the one million+ photographs. The images have been the source of numerous Hollywood feature films, documentaries and museum exhibitions. Dr. Burns has authored forty photo-historical texts and curated more than fifty photographic exhibitions. He has been a founding donor of photography collections, including the J.P. Getty Museum and The Bronx Museum of the Arts. He spends his time lecturing, creating exhibits, and writing books on underappreciated areas of history and photography.
On the web: www.theburnsarchive.blogspot.com
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Education & Communications Manager
Merchant's House Museum
29 East Fourth Street, NYC 10003
tel: 212-777-1089 x303 fax: 212-777-1104