Rare American Civil War Medical Photographs On View For 150th Anniversary

Posted by David Ozanich — 14 Apr 2011

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April 12th was the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War. Lots of reenactments and celebrations (if that's the right word for a war anniversary) are taking place all over the US. One of the more interesting shows is the cache of medical photos being shown in public for the first time ever at the Merchants House Museum in New York. WNYC explains:

Each photograph at the Merchant's House Museum exhibit was taken by Reed Brockway Bontecou, who was the surgeon in charge of Washington, D.C.'s Harewood U.S. Army General Hospital. When the war ended, the photographs became the largest part of the government's war medical photograph collection.

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In 1975, a New York City ophthalmologist who had taken an interest to collecting historical photographs, Stanley B. Burns, acquired the photographs from the Bontecou family. He soon established the distinguished Burns Collection, which has since become the nation's largest private comprehensive collection of early medical photography.

Dr. Burns has published two (of three) volumes of the Bontecou photographs. The most recent one, "Shooting Soldiers: The Civil War Medical Photography of Reed Bontecou," will be released on Thursday to coincide with the opening of the Merchant's House exhibition.

The exhibit opens today (and as a side note let me inform you that this is a wonderful and under appreciated gem of a museum) and runs through August 1st. See more of the rare photos on display here.

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