Monday, December 5, 2022

Shiloh's visitor center is closed for months during a museum overhaul that will focus on stories rather than objects

The museum is being largely gutted during the work (NPS photo)
Shiloh National Military Park has gutted its visitor center museum, with plans to transform the space from an object-based presentation to one that highlights compelling stories from the April 1862 battle, officials say.

The federal park in southern Tennessee recently announced the closing of the visitor center for several months. The film “Shiloh: Fiery Trial” is still being shown in the auditorium. Restrooms are available nearby.

The museum is long overdue for the overhaul: The exhibits are about 35 years old.

Park ranger Chris Mekow tells the Civil War Picket in an email that among new items to be displayed is the frock coat of Col. Francis Eugene Whitfield, commander of the 9th Mississippi Infantry.

Park officials remove artifacts, exhibits from the walls, floor (NPS photo)
He was wearing this coat in the Battle of Shiloh when he was seriously wounded. The bullet hole and blood are still there. We are very excited to get this on display for the first anywhere,” Mekow said.

The coat came from a private collection with help from grants and donations through the Friends of Shiloh National Battlefield Park. It was donated to the park several years ago.

F.E. Whitfield
Whitfield was wearing the coat on April 7, 1862, during fighting at the Hornets Nest. He accepted the surrender of Lt. Col. William Shaw of the 14th Iowa.

Whitfield, wounded in 1864 at Resaca in Georgia, survived the war and died in 1885.

The Civil War in North Mississippi Facebook page says the double-breasted coat appears to be made of imported gray wool and was finely tailored, with French blue facings, a gold sleeve braid and a three-button cuff.

In September 2017, noted Civil War collector Rafael Eledge donated uniform trousers Whitfield wore after the battle to the park (photo below).

The Picket has asked Mekow for more details on the nature of story-based items and interpretation that will greet visitors after the museum overhaul.

As for other new exhibits, you will just have to wait,” he wrote previously.

Col. Whitfield's pants before conservation (NPS)
During the work, a temporary station will be set up outside of the 87-year-old building and manned by rangers to assist visitors. Battlefield grounds and park’s bookstore remain open during the project.

Officials say updates will be provided on the park's website and Facebook page.

Visitor center exterior and dismantled exhibits (NPS)

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