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A historian's look at the Civil War at the Houston Museum of Natural Science

By by dianna wray/wray@vicad.com
Dec. 28, 2011 at 6:28 a.m.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science has on display the exhibit, "Discovering the Civil War." The show is broken up into 12 exhibits, each part based around an original document.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Discover the Civil WarWHERE: Houston Museum of Natural Science, 5555 Hermann Park Drive, HoustonWHEN: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday and Wednesday through Saturday; 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday, through April 29COST: $18 for children and seniors, $25 for adults

WHAT: "God of Carnage"WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, through Jan. 8WHERE: Zachary Scott Theatre, 1510 Toomey Road, AustinCOST: $25-$60

WHAT: "Imprinting the Divine: Byzantine and Russian Icons"WHEN: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesday through Sundays, through March 18WHERE: 1515 Sul Ross St., HoustonCOST: Free

No matter how much we read about the Civil War, it's impossible to truly understand what it was like for the people who lived through it.

Still, the Houston Museum of Natural Science has set out to get us pretty close with their exhibit, "Discovering the Civil War."

Hundreds of books have been written about our nation's bloodiest conflict and scores of movies have been made about the war, but every historian knows that there's nothing like going back to the source to try to catch hold of the real truth.

The National Archives have thousands of letters, photos, diaries, patents and petitions, and the curator of this exhibit has mined those documents to put you in the shoes of historians.

The show is broken up into 12 exhibits, each part based around an original document. Instead of taking a hard line on what caused the war, visitors can look at the documents, historical artifacts and interactive features to draw on a wide variety of voices and opinions and make up their own minds about what caused the United States to tear itself apart.

The exhibit also gives people a glimpse into what it was like to live through such a war. You can see guns that were carried into battle, instruments that were played, even the archaic surgical tools used to amputate limbs after battlefield injuries.

The Civil War started 150 years ago, and the people who lived through it are long dead. Watching PBS specials and "Gone with the Wind" is all well and good, but there's something to be said for seeing, reading and thinking for yourself.

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