American Social History Project • Center for Media and Learning

Visualizing the American Civil War—An NEH Summer Institute

Published March 10, 2015

During two weeks in July, the American Social History Project-Center for Media and Learning hosted a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute on “The Visual Culture of the American Civil War” at the CUNY Graduate Center and cultural institutions in the New York area. The 2014 institute built on the work established in our 2012 NEH Civil War Summer Institute.

Attended by thirty NEH Summer Scholars from colleges and universities across the country, the institute featured presentations, discussions, visits to local archives and museums, and hands-on workshops that focused on the era’s visual media to assess how information and opinion about the war were recorded and disseminated, and to consider ways visual media expressed and shaped Americans’ understanding on both sides of the conflict.

NEH summer scholars and faculty at the CUNY Graduate Center.

The institute featured talks by fourteen noted historians, art historians, and archivists representing the range of current work in the field. The topics included Civil War photography of the home front and war front, interdisciplinary methods for researching and teaching the Civil War, the illustrated press, images of slavery and antislavery, political cartoons, the paintings of Winslow Homer, the vision of total war, and public monuments (the full schedule of activities and speakers is available here). Building on the information and resources discussed and viewed at the institute, the participants also worked independently on their own research and teaching projects utilizing visual evidence to enhance understanding of the history of the war.

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