One of the challenges in having exhibits in historic buildings is working with the available space. Sometimes the rooms are very small, or some of the building’s features must be incorporated into the exhibits, or the path through the rooms isn’t ideal. That’s when it’s time to get a little creative!
When my museum’s building was renovated to include the exhibits, there were a few of these problems which needed to be solved. One was that the floors of the building were not on the same level; there were stairs between the front and back halves of the building. Putting in ramps was the best solution as far as traffic flow, but it left two rather blank areas. So, instead of having just a utilitarian ramp to lead from on gallery to the next, the space was used as part of the exhibits. On the second floor, the ramp leading into the Camp Life gallery has been transformed into a path to the camp, complete with soldiers. Notice that on the wall to the right, the soldiers are all heading into camp, leading the visitors into the next gallery. Visitors have to come back up the ramp after visiting Camp Life, and so on the other wall, the soldiers are shown marching out of camp, and toward the next gallery. On the first floor, the ramp leads from the Field Hospital gallery into the Pavilion Hospital gallery. So, the ramp here depicts one method of transporting the soldiers from the field to the pavilion hospitals. During the Civil War, railroad cars were modified to transport wounded soldiers. Stretchers were suspended by large by vulcanized rubber rings, which helped to absorb some of the shock from the moving railroad car, and provided a more comfortable ride. This photo shows the image sometimes known as “the creepy guy,” because no matter where you stand, it always seems as if he is looking at you. Notice here that from partway down the ramp he appears to be looking at the camera. In this shot, taken from the bottom of the ramp, it still appears that he is looking at the camera! The murals in the ramps, as well as the murals in the other museum displays, were painted by Anatoly Shapiro. To see more of Mr. Shapiro’s work click here. Check back next week to see another unexpected area for a museum display! Photos courtesy of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.