The Civil War Museum of Philadelphia records
Held at: Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries [Contact Us]
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
The Civil War Library and Museum of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (hereafter MOLLUS; please see the historical note for the MOLLUS collection on the history of MOLLUS) was chartered in Philadelphia in 1888 with the goals of “the collection, preservation and maintenance of a free library, more particularly upon military and naval subjects relating to the War of the Rebellion in the United States of America, the formation of a museum of implements, relics and muniments of war, and the erection and maintenance of a building for lectures and meetings.” Rutherford B. Hayes served as the Museum’s first president. The Museum was housed in various rented spaces until 1922, when it was moved to 1805 Pine Street. In 2008, the Museum was closed to prepare for a new building, originally intended to open in 2014.
The Civil War Library and Museum boasts one of the most important collections of Civil War-related artifacts in the United States. The collection documents not only the experiences of those directly involved in the war and fighting for the Union, but also the impact that the war had on civilian life and those left behind to cope with the adversities of life in wartime. The library contains one of the most comprehensive groupings of histories of Union Army regiments, as well as many volumes on Abraham Lincoln. The museum collections (housed at the Gettysburg Battlefield Museum and Visitors’ Center) are intended to eventually be transferred to the new museum building, while the library and archives will remain with the Heritage Center at the Union League of Philadelphia.
Charter and By-Laws of the War Library and Museum of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the U.S. Civil War Museum of Philadelphia records, Union League of Philadelphia.
“The museum’s collection.” Retrieved from http://civilwarmuseumphila.org/collection
Memorial booklet, 1947, Civil War Museum of Philadelphia records, Union League of Philadelphia.
“The museum’s history.” Retrieved from http://civilwarmuseumphila.org/about
The Civil War Museum of Philadelphia records date from 1886 to 2006. The collection consists of institutional records including general correspondence, financial records, and minute books; administrative records associated with the Board of Governors, the museum registrar, and exhibition planning; educational multimedia materials; and scrapbooks, clippings, and other ephemera. The collection documents the administration and activities of the Civil War Museum of Philadelphia.
The collection is divided into five series: “1. Correspondence, 1892 to 1999,” “2. Minute books, 1886 to 1992,” “3. Financial records, 1891 to 1967,” “4. Administrative records, 1891 to 2006,” and “5. Scrapbooks and ephemera, circa 1890s to circa 1980.”
Series “1. Correspondence” dates from 1892 to 1999. This series includes correspondence related to topics such as museum and library planning, meetings, insurance policies, real estate, and financial matters. This series includes single items of interest such as letters regarding Ulysses S. Grant’s ceremonial presentation sword and the bones of Stonewall Jackson’s horse; and city planning documents including blueprints, sketches, and a clipping related to Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Correspondence is arranged chronologically and then alphabetically from 1892 to 1951, after which it is arranged chronologically from 1952 to 1999.
Series “2. Minute books” dates from 1886 to 1992. The records in this series are bound minute books documenting the activities of the Board of Governors and other administrative bodies of the museum. Noteworthy in this series is an 1886 minute book that contains materials related to the planning and founding of the museum. Minutes and reports related to quarterly and annual meetings of the Board of Governors found in series “4. Administrative records” supplement the minute books. The records in this series are arranged chronologically.
Series “3. Financial records” dates from 1891 to 1967. Records include financial ledgers, financial journals, account books, check books, and other financial documents. The records in this series are arranged chronologically.
Series “4. Administrative records” dates from 1891 to 2006 and is divided into three subseries: “4.a. Board of Governors,” “4.b. Exhibition, registrar, research, and catalog records,” and “4.c. Educational multimedia.”
Subseries “4.a. Board of Governors” dates from 1932 to 1987, with a significant gap between 1952 and 1980. This subseries contains Board of Governors papers and quarterly and annual meeting reports that supplement the bound minute books of series “2. Minute books.” The Board of Governors papers are numbered by subject according to the original filing system. This system is numbered from 1 to 197, with each number corresponding to a separate subject. There is currently no index of this arrangement. These papers are arranged chronologically from 1932 to 1952. The reports from Board of Governors quarterly and annual meetings that follow are also arranged chronologically from 1980 to 1987.
Subseries “4.b. Exhibition, registrar, research, and catalog records” dates from 1891 to 2006 and contains four groupings: exhibition records, registrar files, research files, and catalog records, arranged in this order.
Exhibition records include photographs, wall text, loan and planning documents, research materials, promotional materials, and financial records that document exhibitions covering topics such as African Americans in the Civil War, items imported from the United Kingdom, prisons and prisoners, specific Civil War campaigns, and women in the Civil War. The majority of the exhibition materials are arranged alphabetically by exhibition title and then chronologically within each exhibition. Exhibitions date from 1901 to 2006, with the majority of the records dating from 1989 to 1998. Researchers should note that several exhibitions were filed under general subject titles within the alphabetical arrangement.
Registrar files date from 1891 to 1999, with significant gaps between 1891 and 1951 and between 1951 and 1980. Contents include a museum charter and by-laws, guides, notes, reports, loan and insurance documents, and planning documents all arranged chronologically. This group also contains museum object files that include photographic prints, negatives, and slides that are mostly undated and are arranged by document type.
Research files date from 1964 to 1999, and include subject files that are mostly undated, with dated files arranged chronologically from 1964 to 1998. Undated research files are arranged alphabetically by subject. This group also contains completed research consent forms, which are arranged chronologically from 1992 to 1999.
Catalog records are all undated, and include catalog records for book locations within the Navy Room and War Library as well as card catalogs that are arranged first by Dewey Decimal number and then alphabetically by subject. Researchers should note that all catalog records found in this series are no longer in use and should not attempt to request materials using these.
Subseries “4.c. Educational multimedia” dates from 1978 to 1983, although the majority of the contents are undated. This subseries contains audio tapes and compact discs; slides and booklets related to an audio-visual tour of Pennsylvania battlefields; and video tapes, cassettes, and film reels. This subseries is arranged by document type.
Subseries “5. Scrapbooks and ephemera” dates from circa 1890s to circa 1980, with significant gaps between circa 1910s and 1947, and between 1963 and circa 1980. This subseries contains scrapbooks, clippings, memorial booklets, a guestbook, and an Award of Distinction from the Civil War Centennial Commission. This series is arranged by document type, then chronologically within this arrangement.
Overall, the collection documents the establishment, administration and activities of the Civil War Museum of Philadelphia, as well as the relationships this museum has had with other individuals and organizations. These relationships along with the administrative records constitute an interesting glimpse into the history of museums in the Philadelphia area. Additionally, the exhibitions records and research files reveal trending subjects in the study of the Civil War. This collection could therefore prove valuable for researchers interested in Civil War heritage, the Civil War museum itself, and also the history of general museum administrative practices in the Philadelphia area.
The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources' "Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives" Project.
- Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Amanda Mita and Evan Peugh
- Finding Aid Date
- 2014 January 31
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the Union League Heritage Center with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.