About Photo
An exhibition at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
MaryLou and George Boone Gallery
Oct. 13, 2012—Jan. 14, 2013

“The field of photography is extending itself to embrace subjects of strange and sometimes of fearful interest.”
—Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., July 1863

In the fall of 1862, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. received word that his son had been shot through the neck at the Battle of Antietam. The illustrious New England physician and man of letters immediately boarded a train to search for him.

The exhibition on which this website is based contained more than 200 works drawn from the Civil War collections at the Huntington Library.

Curator Jennifer A. Watts explored how photography and other media were used to describe, to explain, and perhaps to come to terms with the trauma that was the Civil War.

The exhibition focused on key episodes to highlight larger cultural themes. These include the Battle of Antietam, not only the bloodiest single day in the nation’s history, but the first in which photographs of American battlefield dead were made; the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the execution of the conspirators; and the establishment of Gettysburg National Monument as part of larger attempts at reconciliation and healing. Download a complete checklist of all the works included in the exhibition.