War expansion under way at museum

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 8, 2003

People from across the nation and around the world are fascinated by a four-year period of American history called the War Between the States.

Charlotte Gibson, director of the Pioneer Museum of Alabama, said visitors to the museum ask more questions about the War Between the States than about any other period.

"The state tourism department published a survey of the questions most asked about Alabama and the War Between the States was number four," Gibson said. "That was a most turbulent period in our history and people just seem to be fascinated by it. When Bob McLendon offer his collection of War Between the States artifacts for a temporary exhibit in April, we were delighted."

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The collection was part of the museum's month-long focus on the War Between the States that included weekly symposiums by authorities on different phases of the war. The symposiums were well attended and the exhibit was very popular with locals and tourists all during April, Confederate History and Heritage month.

"The response to the exhibit was so enthusiastic that Bob offered his entire collection to the museum on permanent loan," Gibson said. "We realized that Bob's collection is so large collection that additional space would be needed to house the artifacts. But, this was an opportunity that we couldn't pass up.

"The loan of these artifacts will be a great addition to the museum and we wanted to be able to display them all. To do that, would have to renovate an area for them."

The renovation process began this week and the museum's existing War Between the States and Spanish-American War exhibits are temporarily closed to the public.

Gibson said a temporary wall has been removed and the area expanded to house McLendon's

exhibit, which includes hundreds of artifacts.

"The area is now about two and a half times as large as it was," Gibson said. "We've added five smaller display cases in addition to the ones already in use. It is going to be an outstanding display of War Between the States artifacts."

McLendon said the artifacts number in the hundreds, maybe more.

"I really don't have a count," he said. "I've been collecting for about 30 years and two rooms of my house are filled with artifacts, most of them from the War Between the States.

McLendon said many of the artifacts were discovered in Virginia using a metal detector.

"I like to search for artifacts at campsites," he said. "I like to find things on my own. When you find something like that, you know that the last person to touch it was a soldier of the War Between the States."

McLendon will also shell out money for artifacts.

"In Virginia, some artifacts are so common they are put in boxes and sold as junk," he said. "To me they are treasures."

Most treasures are held close, but not McLendon's treasures.

"I've enjoyed collecting these artifacts, but they should be enjoyed by everyone," he said. "I don't want to keep them shut up where nobody can see them. That's why I decided to put them on permanent loan to the museum."

McLendon also has artifacts from the Spanish American War and World War I. Some of those will also be on loan to the museum.

"The perimeter of years that the museum covers is from the settlement period through the 1930s," Gibson said. "Bob's loan will greatly enhance our War Between the States and Spanish American

War area. We are very appreciative of his interest and his support."