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April 12, 2011

“The Last Full Measure: Civil War Photographs from the Liljenquist Family Collection” Opens April 12

Portrait photographs of the young men who fought and died in the American Civil War will be on display, starting today, April 12, at the Library of Congress.

Nearly 400 ambrotype and tintype photographs of both Union and Confederate soldiers are featured in the exhibition "The Last Full Measure: Civil War Photos from the Liljenquist Family Collection," which is free and open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday, from April 12 to Aug. 13, 2011.

The exhibition, which is made possible through the generous support of HISTORY, the Tom Liljenquist family and Union Pacific Corp., is located in the second-floor South Gallery of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington D.C.

"The Last Full Measure" commemorates the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, which started on April 12, 1861 at Fort Sumter, S.C., and will serve as a memorial to those who gave their lives during the devastating conflict by displaying the faces of 360 Union soldiers—one for every 1,000 who died—and 52 Confederate soldiers—one for every 5,000. Fewer portraits exist of Confederate soldiers, as fewer such photographs were taken in the South during the war.

The faces in the photographs, poignant and unforgettable, invite quiet contemplation of the human costs of the war and the courage and determination that characterized the people on both sides. The names of many of those pictured have been lost during the passage of time.

The Civil War portraits depict ordinary enlisted men, with some rare images of African American soldiers. A number of portraits include loved ones—wives, sisters and children. Details in the photographs often show firearms, hats, canteens and musical instruments.

"The Last Full Measure" also tells the story of the Liljenquist family of McLean, Va., that built the powerful collection of Civil War portraits, now numbering more than 700 images, from which this exhibition is drawn. In spring 2010, Tom Liljenquist and his sons—Jason, 19; Brandon, 17; and Christian, 13—generously donated the collection to the Library as a gift to the nation, in order to ensure broad public access to the images and their long-term preservation.

The Liljenquists became interested in Civil War history after finding bullets and other signs of an encampment near their home in Virginia. As they began to investigate other artifacts from the war, they were especially attracted to the images captured in the photographic formats called ambrotypes (on glass) and tintypes (on metal). On the Library’s website, Brandon Liljenquist describes further his family’s reasons for collecting the photographs and donating them to the Library. Visit www.loc.gov/rr/print/coll/633_lilj_measure.html.

To view the entire Liljenquist Family Collection, visit the Prints and Photographs Division online at www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/lilj/.

Photographs in the exhibition include a girl in mourning; an African American Union soldier; and a Confederate soldier with canteen and cup.

Members of the media can access more downloadable photos from the exhibit by visiting the online pressroom and selecting "The Last Full Measure" press kit: www.loc.gov/pressroom/.

Also, images in the collection can be seen through Flickr Commons, where viewers can assist in identifying individuals and photographers based on such clues as painted backdrops and regimental insignia. To view the photos at Flickr Commons, visit www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/sets/72157625520211184/ (external link).

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. It seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov and via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at myLOC.gov.

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PR 11-075
04/12/11
ISSN 0731-3527

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