The museum's just-ended exhibit, "The Civil War in North Louisiana," drew 771 visits, with 34 percent of those visits by out-of-parish residents. The eight-week long event ended Wednesday, Sept. 20, on a high note: A group of 23 students and their teachers from Union Parish Junior High School visited, bringing questions and curiosity about the Civil War. Kevin Adkins, history teacher at Union Parish High School, gave the kids a brief overview of the war as it impacted North Louisiana. He then led the students in making paper cartridges such as those used by Civil War soldiers. Museum docents Jean Jones, Beverly Jay, and Mary Ruth Allred led the students in comparing medical practices of Civil War times to medicine today (quite different!).
Amid the Civil War uniforms, flags, weapons, and photographs, there are several small objects that silently capture the attention of every visitor to the current exhibit in the Union Museum of History and Art in Farmerville. The intriguing items are letters. Simple, yet profound, letters. All were written by young uneducated soldiers, lonely for home and family, fearful of death, and bewildered by the horrors they witnessed. “Dear Mother,” begins William H.H. Kennedy’s letter to Permelia Kennedy of Farmerville on January 14, 1863, written from a camp near Vicksburg. “I take mi pen in hand to inform you a few lines to let you know I am a live yet but I have been put near dead ever cence they had the battle.” The 22 year-old soldier writes of freezing cold weather with thin blankets, lack of food and medicine, and rampant illness among troops. Kennedy recounts the battle he has just endured and war’s deafening roar. His next lines tighten the throat: “I never felt bad scird but wonct thar was a fellow a seting by me an ther come along a cannon ball an took off his head…”
Written from camp in Tennessee, James M. Tanner’s letter to his sister Permeliann in July 1863 begs her to write to him. “I wuld like to here from all my relashuns.” He died a few days later. James fought for the Confederacy. His brother Lewis served in a Union regiment.
For the “Civil War in North Louisiana” exhibit, Dr. Gary Joiner, Chair and Professor of History at LSU-Shreveport, has provided more than 40 historic maps and images that help us understand our region’s place in the national conflict. Twenty-four individuals have contributed other historic treasures such as minie balls, guns, swords, family photographs, and a New York newspaper announcing President Lincoln’s death on April 15, 1865. Several re-enactors have contributed accurate replicas of Confederate and Union uniforms and accoutrements. A special feature is the series of seven talks by regional experts: "Civil War-era Floral Traditions" by Alan Futch, "The 31st Louisiana Infantry Regiment" by Kevin Adkins, "The Vicksburg Campaign" by Terry Winschel, "The Red River Campaign" by Gary Joiner, "Civil War Medicine" by Dr. Tom Pressly, and "The Louisiana Tigers,” by Terry L. Jones.
The American Civil War took the lives of some 630,000 soldiers, mostly through disease and infection. When guns fell silent in May 1865, two percent of the American population had been sacrificed. Throughout the South and the North, regiments were raised in specific locales, so that brothers and friends marched off to war together. Those same comrades often died together, too, devastating families and communities with sometimes overwhelming loss. North Louisiana contributed thousands of men to the Civil War, serving in regiments such as the 31st Louisiana Infantry which fought at Vicksburg.
From the Red River valley to the Mississippi River, significant events took place that impacted the course of the war. War developments in North Louisiana also altered the careers of several military leaders, and ended presidential aspirations of U.S. General Nathaniel P. Banks. Documentary film maker Ken Burns once said, “If you want to know about this thing called the United States of America you have to know about the Civil War.” Likewise, understanding Louisiana’s unique story surely requires a study of its Civil War experiences.
When museum directors decided to exhibit cultures of foreign-born residents of the parish, we had no idea how many countries that would mean. Five countries? Maybe seven? Imagine our surprise when our searching revealed 13 different countries of origin from all around the globe. Thirteen!
The representatives of those countries began meeting and planning back in the fall of 2015. Their enthusiasm grew. They gathered photos and memorabilia. They sought exhibit items in their personal collections and from other family members. Several located dazzling costumes. One crafted a scale model house from her native Costa Rica. They created videos of themselves. And we gathered flags of all 13 countries.
And now, these efforts have paid off in this spectacular international display.
Union Parish is fortunate to have among its populace such diverse individuals, all bringing unique perspectives and experiences. Most settled here decades ago. Some are more recent additions. We salute them all:
Costa Rica - Wendy Comfort
El Salvador - Claudia Escobar Wade
England - Charles Paxton and Olive Hicks
Germany - Helga Head and Barbara Romero
Guatemala - Miguel Barrios (with daughter Mary)
India - David and Dipali Patel (with son Nikesh)
Mexico - Francisco Martinez
New Zealand - Bradley Theyers
Pakistan - Malik and Noshaba Shahid
Philippines - Jen Gracela Gentry and Junie Ibanez Rowell
Russia - Lyudmila Antley
Thailand - Chaba Simpson
Vietnam - Giai Byrnes
We always are a little blue when an exhibit ends and all the treasures are carted away. This time is no exception. The "Christmas Memories" exhibit brought joy and light to all those who visited, recalling days of youthful exuberance and magical imaginings of days gone by.
But now we turn our attention to a new exhibit that will begin in just a few weeks. Blind artist John Bramblitt of Denton, Texas, will be our guest the week of Jan. 19, when he will go to five area schools to lead art classes. The youngsters fortunate enough to be in his presence will surely learn a lot more than art techniques. Bramblitt's determination to overcome a life-altering challenge---losing his sight at age 30---inspires us all to boldly follow our dreams, no matter what obstacles life throws our way.
Several of Bramblitt's paintings plus the students' artworks will hang in the museum from January 26 to February 26.
The Museum will hold a special reception to honor Bramblitt on Thursday, Jan. 21, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. The artist will do a "live" painting session, with the final artwork to be auctioned as a benefit for the Museum. Tickets are $10; free for 2014 and 2015 Friends of the Museum. For information, call us at 318-348-2005.
One year ago, the Union Museum of History and Art held a Chamber ribbon-cutting and opened its doors to the public. That first exhibit, "Celebrating the Waters of Union Parish," began a series of fascinating exhibits telling stories about the people of this region, sharing their culture,creativity, and history.
Over the span of five exhibits, more than 2200 visits have been logged in! We THANK YOU all for your support and your enthusiasm for this new venture. We are forever grateful to the Union Parish Chamber of Commerce for launching the museum project and for giving the museum a "home" in which to operate. We also are grateful to all the many volunteers who have contributed countless hours to make this organization run.
Now on to more adventures!
An enormous and heartfelt THANK YOU to all of the hundreds of visitors to the museum's recent exhibit, "Tracing the Indians of Early Union Parish," and to all the generous people who shared their treasures for this beautiful remembrance of the very earliest residents of our area. The exhibit drew 801 visits (wow!!) over its 10-week run; 297 of those visits (that's 37%) were by people living outside of Union Parish.
We are grateful to CenturyLink for generously sponsoring this exhibit and all its associated events. Special thanks go to James Harty, Fred Stewart, and Larry Pixley who shared their vast knowledge of prehistoric archaeology, and thereby shaped the content and quality of the displays. We thank James Harty, Carla Welch, Michael Christian , and Larry Pixley for leading workshops, and we thank Diana Greenlee for speaking about Poverty Point. Thanks also to Stephanie Antley Herrmann and Union Parish Library for donating six books that were given away to individuals whose names were drawn from among the visitor sign-ins. And of course, we thank Alan Futch for staging this exhibit so beautifully.
Applause for these who shared their artifacts or crafts:
Michael Christian, “Lone Eagle”
Robert G. James
Office of State Parks, Poverty Point Site
Larry & Denise Pixley
Sharon & Will Roberson
Carla Welch, “Shinesta”
"Tracing the Indians of Early Union Parish," is now a reality. The gallery is filled with ancient artifacts discovered in Union Parish---with a long, rich heritage of Native American habitation for thousands of years---and Poverty Point World Heritage Site some 60 miles to the east.
Exhibit sponsor CenturyLink was honored at a Preview Reception Tuesday, July 21, along with all the other individuals and organizations that have helped make this exhibit a reality. Special recognition was given to James Harty, amateur archaeologist and researcher, who has published numerous articles about notable sites in North Louisiana. Harty, along with Fred Stewart and Larry Pixley, have lent their considerable knowledge to shaping this exhibit and assuring high standards.
From May 5 to June 27, the Union Museum of History and Art held an exhibit of 66 vintage quilts, all hand-sewn by Union Parish residents from 1880 to 1989. During the exhibit, 487 people visited the display and marveled at the exquisite craftsmanship shown in the quilts. Visitors were touched by the love and generosity woven into these artworks, many of which were given as gifts for major life events -- weddings, new babies, graduations -- and are today special family treasures.
A very special thanks to Karen Bradford and Pat Seager, curators, who worked with families in choosing a beautiful collection of quilts for the museum. We are supremely grateful to all the 33 individuals who shared their treasured quilts with the public. Thanks also to our exhibit sponsors, Plum Creek and the Friends of the Museum. We also are grateful to our museum docents who greet exhibit visitors and guide them through the displays. During the quilt exhibit alone, docents donated 193 volunteer hours!
Additional note: Of the 487 visitors, 173 (36%) were from out of the parish. We are always delighted to receive guests from Ruston, West Monroe, Monroe, El Dorado, Shreveport, and beyond!
The quilt exhibit is now a beautiful memory, leaving a lasting impression in the minds and hearts of hundreds of museum visitors.
Quilts. Many, many quilts. All handmade by Union Parish women. All at least 25 years old, with many far older than that. Each one of the 70-plus quilts has a story of family and friendship. All carry remembrance of a time when the pace of life moved slow enough for people to carefully stitch patterns and colors and heart. This enchanting exhibit of beautifully crafted works will open May 5 and run through June 27. Come see. Come be amazed.
It's fun to watch the dazzled faces of visitors when they first encounter the gallery filled with Clementine Hunter paintings. Their comments are all so similar. "They're so colorful!" "They tell stories." "What imagination!" "I love all the bright flowers." Nearly 300 youth and adults have visited these paintings so far. If you haven't come to soak up this room full of history and color, I encourage you to do so soon. April10 will be the last day to view this remarkable collection.