>Lincoln’s Blood

>It poured yesterday.

Despite that, my colleague Clarice and I drove down to Corsicana for the North Texas Documents group meeting (NORDOCs) at Navarro College. We had a really good meeting, and it was nice to not be the newest docs librarian there.

Susan showed us around their gorgeous new library (windows everywhere!), and then took us to Navarro College’s amazing Pearce Collection of Civil War artifacts. It is an amazingly, gorgeously put-together exhibit (the lights that lead you through it get redder as the chronology of the war got bloodier). I loved the introductory film, which was not only interesting and quality-produced, but uniquely displayed. There was a normal rectangular screen for the film itself, and below it were two shaped screens: one an oval, and the other in the shape of the eastern half of the United States. The oval screen displayed photographs of individuals and the names, dates, and places of letters written as they were talked about in the film, and the map screen starred locations as battles and letters were mentioned.

The collection, which consists of over 15,000 documents, is primarily letters by ordinary soldiers. They’re funny, heart-rending, and touchingly human. I read an account by a young surgeon who told of his first two “maiden surgeries” on the field–amputating an arm and a leg.

There were several official government documents, including a typed eyewitness account of Lincoln’s death, and a letter written by Lincoln on “Executive Mansion” stationary. And there next to it was a towel with two dark brown spots–blood from his mortal wound.

There’s something about being that close to a historical relic–being one sheet of glass and two inches of air from a piece of something important more than a hundred years old. It reminds me, and don’t laugh, of a scene from First Contact.

Picard: It’s a boyhood fantasy… I must have seen this ship hundreds of times in the Smithsonian but I was never able to touch it.
Data: Sir, does tactile contact alter your perception of The Phoenix?
Picard: Oh, yes! For humans, touch can connect you to an object in a very personal way, make it seem more real.

On a lighter note, we stopped by the famous Collin Street Bakery on our way back–you may have heard of their DeLuxe Fruitcake. Clarice, whose grandmother lived in Corsicana, showed me through the quaint downtown area–I loved those brick streets.

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