The mission of the Center for Civil War Photography is to educate the public about Civil War photography, its role in the conflict, and its rich variety of forms and formats; to digitally secure original images and preserve vintage prints; to enhance the accessibility of photographs to the public; and to present interpretive programs that use stereoscopic and standard images to their fullest potential.
HISTORY OF THE CCWP
The Center for Civil War Photography was founded in 1999 by author Bob Zeller, wet plate photographer Rob Gibson, and the late Al Benson. It was incorporated as a Pennsylvania organization in October 2001 and approved by the IRS as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in June 2002. The Center has also been on the Internet since March 2000. (An interview with Bob Zeller.)
Currently, the Center serves as the only clearinghouse for information about Civil War photography on the Internet. Since its creation, the Center has answered hundreds of inquires about Civil War photographs, often from people who own images of their ancestors and seek to understand more about them.
On August 10-12, 2001, the Center staged its first official function in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, The Image of War, a detailed seminar on battlefield photography. Since then, the Center has conducted annual seminars in locations including Antietam, Spotsylvania County/Fredericksburg, Richmond, Manassas/Washington DC.
When eighth grade teacher Beth Moceri from Northville, Michigan, inquired about the availability of slides of Civil War photographs to explain their place in American art, Center President Bob Zeller assembled and scripted a slide show about the impact and significance of the Antietam battlefield photographs. The Center now has this show available for loan to schools or groups. The slide show was used three times in 2001.
At Gibson’s Gallery in Gettysburg, thousands of visitors have seen first hand what a working Civil War photography studio looks like. Hundreds have taken the opportunity to dress in period clothing for a Gibson portrait on glass using the wet-plate collodion method of the mid-19th century. Zeller, meanwhile, has mesmerized thousands since 1997 with his 3-D slide presentations of original Civil War photographs. Zeller currently has five different 3-D Civil War slide shows for presentation to groups and organizations.
Gibson and Zeller have appeared together on C-Span and The Civil War Journal. They have given demonstrations at the National Portrait Gallery, the National Archives, the Museum of the Confederacy, the Antietam National Battlefield, and numerous other locations. The Center published its first work on Civil War photography in 2002-the never-previously-compiled complete catalog of Alexander Gardner’s Photographic Incidents of the War, which lists more than 1,200 stereo views and 1,000 large plate images.
The Center also publishes a new book in its 99 Historic Images… series each year in conjunction with its Image of War Seminar. The books are currently on sale at many book stores including Eastern National bookstores and online on Amazon.com.
In the summer of 2003 the Center launched its online book store. The store currently sells many Civil War photography related books as well as the Center’s own publications. Patrons can also purchase memberships, give donations, and make seminar reservations securely online with their credit card.
One of our most gratifying achievements in 2005 was the installation of a permanent 3-D slide show of Civil War photographs at Civil War Life – The Soldier’s Museum, in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The 20-minute show, which was co-produced by the Center and the museum, began daily public presentations on June 5, 2005. We plan to refine and improve the production in 2007 and eventually to convert to a digital show.
As The Center for Civil War Photography continues to move forward with several initiatives directly related to its mission, it is poised to launch perhaps the single most important project it could ever seek to undertake: the compilation, in a digital format, of every Civil War photograph taken. This far-reaching goal — to gather, scan and make available online all known photographs of the Civil War — will take years to fulfill, and in fact any such compilation will never be complete, since previously unknown Civil War images continue to surface regularly.