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What's New

Exhibition of Civil War Treasures at U.S. Capitol Visitor Center

Union Soldiers in front of the U.S. Capitol during the Civil War (1861).
Monday, March 26, 2012

Beth Plemmons, CEO for the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, announced that a new selection of Civil War-related documents and artifacts will be on display beginning March 12 through September 8, 2012, in the Capitol Visitor Center’s Exhibition Hall.

“We are pleased to present part two of our commemoration of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War by highlighting documents and artifacts that relate to the role of Congress and the Capitol during the Civil War,” said Plemmons.

“The Civil War was a defining moment both in our nation’s history and in the expansion and evolution of the Capitol Building. Its distinguishing feature – the cast iron Dome – was added to the Capitol during this time. This exhibit provides visitors with an in-depth look at how the Civil War impacted our country,” added Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers, FAIA, LEED AP.

Among the items featured is a copy of the DC Emancipation Act, on loan from the National Archives. This Act ended slavery in the District of Columbia nine months before the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. The legislation, signed by President Abraham Lincoln on April 16, 1862, freed nearly 3,000 people and included compensation to slave owners for lost property.

In 1865, Congress created the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, to provide for the needs of displaced and formerly-enslaved persons. The Bureau’s actions included issuing hundreds of marriage certificates to couples denied the right to marry while enslaved. Also on loan from the National Archives is the marriage certificate of former slaves John and Emily Pointer who got married in October 1866, after the creation of the Freedmen’s Bureau.

Be sure to check out the new student self-guide of the Capitol Visitor Center’s Exhibition Hall and the Capitol Grounds called, “My Capitol.” The self-guide includes historical background, activities, and questions to encourage discussion during the tour or for follow-up at school or at home. Copies are available online or at the Visitor Center’s North Coat Check.