NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The original Emancipation Proclamation, a document that changed the lives of countless African-Americans during the Civil War, is going on display in Nashville as the fragile historical document makes its only stop in the Southeast on a 150th anniversary tour.
The exhibit opens Tuesday — fittingly on the anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday — at the Tennessee State Museum and runs through Monday. It’s a rare visit outside the nation’s capital for the original document Lincoln signed in 1863 declaring “forever free” all slaves held in Confederate states rebelling against the Union.
Because lights are harmful to the papers, the document can only be viewed for 72 hours over the course of the six days. After Feb. 18, a replica of the Emancipation Proclamation will be on display until the exhibit ends Sept. 1.
Bruce Bustard, senior curator at the National Archives where the document is kept, said Tennessee was a key battleground in the war, so he expects the “Discovering The Civil War” exhibit will draw many visitors interested in seeing some of the original documents from the war.
“Tennessee was an incredibly important state during the Civil War,” he said. “There were more battles in Tennessee than any other state in the Union except for Virginia.”
The exhibit is organized by topic, rather than chronologically like most Civil War museum exhibits. It emphasizes a wide range of documents, records and artifacts that have been preserved at the National Archives.
“What we are trying to do is tell you the little-known stories, and also some seldom seen documents and unusual perspectives on the war,” said Bustard, during a preview of the exhibit Monday.
The museum gave out all of some 18,000 reservations for visitors and school groups, but it will be accommodating additional walk-in visitors, spokeswoman Mary Skinner said.
On Jan. 1, 1863, Lincoln made good on a pledge issued 100 days earlier, signing a final proclamation declaring all slaves in states in rebellion against the Union to be free.
The proclamation wouldn’t end slavery outright and wasn’t even enforceable at the time by Lincoln in areas under Confederate control. But the president made clear from that day forward that his forces would be fighting to put the Union back together without the institution of slavery.
Along with the original proclamation, the exhibit also displays the original signed copy of the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery in 1865, and the 1861 unratified amendment that would have prevented the federal government from interfering in slavery.
“We didn’t want to give people the impression that the emancipation was one moment, that slavery ended from the Emancipation Proclamation for example,” he said. “We wanted to get across the idea that the end of slavery was really an uneven and unsteady process, but that the United States moved a tremendous distance from 1861 and 1865.”
The exhibit also features several interactive elements, including a video of reunions of Civil War troops, readings of letters sent home from the front lines and touch screens that allow visitors to explore historical documents.
The exhibit originally opened at the National Archives in 2010 and traveled to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich., and the Houston Museum of Natural Science in Houston before making its final stop in Nashville.
The proclamation has been rarely shown because it was badly damaged decades ago by long exposure to light. For many years it was kept at the State Department with other presidential proclamations before being transferred in 1936 to the National Archives.
Follow Kristin Hall on Twitter at http://twitter.com/kmhall .
More Related Stories
- Illinois' fracking and coal rush is a national crisis
- Developers evict historic women's shelter to build luxury hotel
- Kaitlyn Hunt refuses plea offer, will go to court over high school relationship
- DHS admits "impossible" to control 3D-printed guns
- Journalists file suit against Manning trial secrecy
- Russia: Syrian regime ready to talk peace
- Report: Nearly a quarter of all Americans struggle to afford food
- Ted Cruz against the world
- Louie Gohmert: Women should be forced to carry nonviable pregnancies to term
- 2 men arrested for endangering commercial aircraft
- Oversized load blamed for bridge collapse
- This is what Guy Fieri looks like as a balloon
- Iran hackers aiming at U.S. energy firms
- Lawyers release data in attempt to discredit Trayvon Martin
- Anonymous rallies behind Kaitlyn Hunt
- Bridge collapse: Part of "aging infrastructure"
- Mistrial in penalty phase of Arias case
- Amanda Bynes arrested after hurling bong from window
- Interstate 5 bridge collapses north of Seattle
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11