On Tuesday, July 28th, the National Museum of Civil War Medicine was pleased to dedicate The Clara Barton Missing Soldier’s Office, the living and working space of Clara Barton during, and just after, the American Civil War. Located on 7th Street in Washington D.C., The Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office is now open to the public thanks to the unique partnership between the General Services Administration and the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.
|The original sign.|
Clara Barton lived and worked in the space from 1861 to 1869. With the assistance of a handful of clerks, Barton discovered the fate of nearly 22,000 soldiers listed as missing in action and responded to nearly 63,000 pieces of correspondence. Barton financed the Missing Soldiers Office with her own funds out of this very space.
|Tom painting the cases.|
We had many tasks that needed to be completed to ensure their readiness for both the artifacts as well as our esteemed guests. The original cases that the museum had to spare we incomplete, but we contacted a local plexi glass company, who made us some quality lids. In addition each received a fresh coat of paint that would complement but not take away from the interpretive space.
Once the paint had cured and off gassed, the cases were brought up and into the space. We wanted each room to tell a different story of the Missing Soldiers Office. In one room, we would focus on boarding house life. In another, we show items that may have belonged to Barton. In the main room, Room 9, we tell the story of the Missing Soldiers Office, with the original sign and other supplies used in the space.
|The original sign on display in Room 9.|
With the cases in place, the artifacts were brought in to the space. By using risers, we were able to elevate the items for the public to view, and to highlight the items. Labels were also added in the cases to describe the significance of each artifact.
|Edward Shaw's room.|
Some of the rooms have been furnished with period items and décor to give a glimpse into the lives of those who resided there. Two period ropes beds are seen in the Barton and Shaw rooms we set up two rope beds as well as a desk where a gas lamp would sit. In the Room 9, we set up two period style desks, along with some crates, to represent items that would have been seen in the Missing Soldiers Office.
|The visitor center and bookstore area.|
The dedication of the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office was the culmination of a nearly 20 year project that began in 1996 when a GSA employee named Richard Lyons discovered artifacts in the attic that belonged to Clara Barton. It is entirely due to his diligent observation and persistence that the space once occupied by Clara Barton was discovered and the news of the discovery shared.
|Richard Lyon's receiving his plaque at the dedication.|
Without his efforts and the contributions of multiple partners and many individuals - the artifacts, this historic space and the CBMSO legacy would have been lost to history. In a moving ceremony, Richard Lyons was presented with a plaque and a standing ovation in honor of his discovery and efforts.
Visitors can now walk the steps Barton walked and experience the space as she did more than 150 years ago. The CBMSO is the result of a one-of-a-kind partnership between the General Services Administration (GSA) and the NMCWM. Both are proud of the incredible efforts that went into restoring, preserving and interpreting this historic site.
|The ribbon cutting.|
Photos courtesy of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, except where otherwise noted.