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Touching the Civil War

Seminar puts history in students’ hands

The bloodiest era in American history — the Civil War — will be made tangible Tuesday evening at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center. The center’s Student Discovery Seminar series presents William Tilchin, a College of General Studies associate professor of social science, talking about Tales of the American Civil War, accompanied by an exhibition of many of the center’s documents and artifacts from that much-studied time period. Students will have a chance to touch and examine the important papers and documents being exhibited.

Among the historical documents and objects attendees will be allowed to handle in the presentation, one of 12 Gotlieb Center Student Discovery Seminars, are a life mask of Abraham Lincoln, a wanted poster for Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, and a printing of the Emancipation Proclamation as it was first shown to the U.S. Congress in January 1863.

“The idea is to create a real connection and spur an interest in primary sources in history,” says Alexander Rankin, HGARC assistant director for acquisitions, who selected the objects being shown at the seminar. “To be able to hold a letter from Abraham Lincoln that has great historical significance can be very intoxicating.”

Tilchin is the author of Theodore Roosevelt and the British Empire: A Study in Presidential Statecraft and is the 2006 winner of CGS’s Peyton Richter Award for interdisciplinary teaching. He is a widely recognized scholar in the fields of U.S. diplomatic history and the history of presidential leadership.

Tales of the American Civil War will be presented at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, February 27, at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, on the fifth floor of Mugar Memorial Library, 771 Commonwealth Ave. The seminar is open to all Boston University students.

Click the slide show above to hear more about the objects on display.

Art Jahnke can be reached at jahnke@bu.edu. Paul Heerlein can be reached at heerlein@bu.edu.