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Exhibit honors Lincoln bicentennial

Posted by Leslie Anderson  February 11, 2009 07:04 PM

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Brandeis University is celebrating President Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday with an exhibit of hundreds of photographs and artifacts related to his life. The collection, which includes a note written by Lincoln in 1861 and a sash worn by a horse at his funeral, belongs to Brian D. Caplan, a 1982 Brandeis graduate.

‘‘Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War: A Commemorative Exhibition’’ will be on display through June at the Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Department, located in the Goldfarb Library.

Caplan, a New York City lawyer, has been a collector since his college days and has amassed as many as 20 different collections, but says Lincoln and the Civil War are his ‘‘specialties.’’

‘‘This material sits in a den in my home and in my office, but since it’s historical and timely I wanted to share my collection so that people can learn from it,’’ Caplan said in a press release issued by the university. ‘‘I think Lincoln’s humanity is key. He had a heart, he had forgiveness, and before he was assassinated he believed in forgiving the South with open arms. There are not that many people who have intelligence, strength, leaderships skills and humanity as character traits together.”

Over the years Caplan has attended many Civil War and political trade shows and general auctions in order to build his collection. In its entirety, he has thousands of pieces concerning Lincoln and the Civil War, including many photographs.

The artifacts in the exhibition are divided into several categories, including the election of 1860; the commencement of the Civil War; camp life; the plight of African Americans in the Civil War; Lincoln’s family; Confederate and Union generals; the reelection of 1864; children of war; and Lincoln’s assassination and funeral as well as the trial following his death.

One of the featured items is a note written by Lincoln in 1861, approximately two weeks after the Civil War began.

“Since Lincoln and the Civil War are intertwined, it’s not possible to do one without the other,” Caplan said. “Although I don’t have any personal effects of Lincoln, what I do have, combined with the Civil War photography and related items from camp life, I think will make for an interesting exhibit.

According to Karen Adler Abramson, associate director for university archives and special collections, this is the first time the department will display an exhibit originating outside the Brandeis campus.

The exhibit will be on display through June at the Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Department, located in the Goldfarb Library, Level 2. Hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information, contact (781) 736-4686 or ascdepartment@brandeis.edu.

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