When you gaze upon the artifacts at the McCord Gallery and Cultural Center's latest exhibit it is easy to be transported back in time. The handwritten letters, worn uniforms and rare firearms all work together to create a moving image of the Civil War.
The exhibit has become an annual tradition for the Palos Park gallery and is supported in large part by the collection of Dr. Joseph Matheu. The southwest suburban physician has displayed his carefully curated artifacts at McCord for the past five years.
"It was a war that had a deep impact on our country," Matheu said. "It put family against family, brother against brother."
The real impact of the war can be felt with each piece. Tables are filled with countless remnants of battle. Guns used in battle, outfitted for deadly accuracy, sit near a tattered American flag.
A special section of this year's display is items form the Indian Wars including the Battle of Little Big Horn. Matheu co-founded the Blackfeet Medical Corps, a group that provides medical services and aid to the Blackfeet tribe.
For Matheu, there is a special satisfaction that comes with opening his collection up to the public.
"I have had parents tell me that their kids became interedted in history and began reading about it because of this," Matheu said.
Adding to the exhibit is the setting itself. The McCord House was built in the years just before the Civil War.
The exhibit will be open to the public from Feb. 29 to March 4 from 10 a.m. to 4p.m. General admission is $12 and $10 for members, children under 18, students and active service members are free.
There will be special evening events on March 2 and 3 at 7 p.m. that will feature a lecture, docents and light refreshments for a cost of $50. Contact the McCord Gallery at (708) 671-0648 for more information.