Lincoln Exhibit to Open

Coinciding with the sesquicentennial observance of the Civil War and West Virginia statehood, West Liberty University is displaying a traveling exhibit, “Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War,” which opens to the public in Elbin Library Wednesday, Aug. 14.

“We are very excited to host this important exhibit and we know our students will benefit. We also hope the public will visit campus and tour the exhibit or attend one of our special events,” said Cheryl Harshman, library director, who coordinated the exhibit.

Harshman began planning for the 1,000-square-foot national exhibit three years ago when she applied for funding.

Special events include a presentation at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11, by Dr. Jason Phillips, Eberly Professor of Civil War Studies at West Virginia University. Phillips will speak on the South’s view of President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.

Phillips specializes in teaching Civil War and Reconstruction, Southern history and 19th-century America. He earned a doctoral degree at Rice University, a master’s degree at Wake Forest University and a bachelor’s degree at the University of Richmond.

The American Library Association Public Programs Office collaborated with the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia to create the Lincoln exhibit that is now traveling to public, research and special libraries; historical societies; museums; civic, community and heritage organizations and institutions of higher education. The traveling exhibition and tour are funded by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to the National Constitution Center.

Using the Constitution as the cohesive thread, “Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War” offers a fresh and innovative perspective on Lincoln that focuses on his struggle to meet the political and constitutional challenges of the Civil War.

Organized thematically, the exhibition explores how Lincoln used the Constitution to confront three intertwined crises of the war: the secession of Southern states, slavery and wartime civil liberties. Visitors will leave the exhibition with a more complete understanding of Lincoln as president and the Civil War as the nation’s gravest constitutional crisis.

“The colorful panels are attractive and easy to understand,” Harshman said. “We installed it in an easily accessed location on the main floor of the library where we hope many visitors and local fans of history will enjoy it.”

In 1861, the issue of slavery precipitated a national crisis framed in terms of constitutional issues. This exhibit illustrates how Lincoln’s election as the nation’s first anti-slavery president brought the nation to the brink of war.

By the time Lincoln took the constitutional oath of office, seven states had already seceded from the Union. Four more soon followed. Lincoln believed that this secession was unconstitutional and undemocratic.

At his inauguration, he promised that the government would not attack the South if the Union were not attacked. But he also warned that he had taken a solemn oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. What Southerners heard that day were words not of moderation but a declaration of war.

The National Constitution Center is one of the nation’s most exciting new museums and a leading provider of constitutionally themed education programs. Created through the Constitution Heritage Act of 1988, the center addresses the need to better educate Americans about their Constitution and citizenship rights and responsibilities.

Its mission is to increase public understanding of, and appreciation for, the Constitution, its history and its contemporary relevance through an interactive museum facility and national outreach programs.

For more on the Lincoln exhibit, visit the American Library Association website,

Summer hours for the Elbin Library are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, through Friday, Aug. 23. Beginning Monday, Aug. 26, hours are extended until 9 p.m. or later, but because of weekends and holidays, it is best to call for details.

Named for a past West Liberty president, the library is the heart of academics at WLU. The library collection features more than 150,000 items in print, audio and video formats; plus two special collections – the Henry Lash Sheet Music Collection and the Nelle M. Krise Rare Books Collection. The library staff assists students and visitors with research, reference, course work and other informational needs. For more information, call 304-336-8261.