Civil War treasure trove open to everyone ( Army’s Military History Institute in Carlisle, Pa.)

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I had been told that only very special Civil War historians – the ones with personal contacts – were allowed to see the archival holdings of the Army’s Military History Institute in Carlisle, Pa. When talking about the institute, some of these historians spoke in a whisper, as though it were an elite private club, and said that just mentioning the treasure-trove of Civil War photographs there could mean a loss of privileges.

Then, in March, I met Steve Perry, executive director of the Army Heritage Center Foundation, at the awards dinner for the Lincoln Prize in New York. The foundation is the institute’s fundraising arm. Perry assured me that I was welcome to visit, as was anyone else who wanted to see the collection.

Well, it turns out Perry was right. If the institute’s reputation for exclusive access was once valid, it is no longer. The staff appeared dedicated to making sure that I, and a dozen other visitors, got to see what we came for. I stayed for the day and left reluctantly just before it closed, having filled a folder full of copies of files on a regiment I am researching.

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