The Charleston Museum's newest exhibit, “On Parade, Into Battle: Military Uniforms from the American Revolution to the Present,” is now open to the public in its Historic Textiles Gallery. The exhibit will run until Jan. 10, 2016.
“On Parade, Into Battle” chronicles the history of military uniforms from the Revolutionary War to the present, demonstrating the evolution of military dress from the formal, stiff attire of the 18th and 19th centuries to the more functional and utilitarian clothing of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Highlights include Thomas Pinckney's rare Revolutionary War silk coat, a range of Confederate uniforms from the Civil War, clothing from the various service organizations of World War I and World War II and uniforms of some of the country's earliest servicewomen.
Also on display are weapons representative of each uniform's era as well as propaganda posters by artists such as Norman Rockwell and John Falter. American military helmets from the Revolutionary War era through World War II, along with examples brought back from other countries as souvenirs, are on exhibit. Meanwhile, the gallery's special study drawers contain accoutrements such as epaulettes, medals, dog tags and historic photographs.
On loan for this exhibition are five miniature portraits from the collections of the Gibbes Museum of Art. In each of these pieces, Charlestonians are depicted in uniform from the American Revolution to the Civil War. Subjects include John Laurens and Daniel Stevens from the Revolutionary War and Thomas Pinckney from the War of 1812
Grahame Long, the museum's chief curator, expresses the significance of uniforms, stating, "Uniforms -- military ones particularly -- provide powerful, and at times, poignant, communicative symbols. More than just attire, each can, without words, tell its own story of valor, duty and perseverance."
Museum Director Carl Borick notes, "'On Parade, Into Battle’ is another excellent example of the richness of the museum's historic textiles collection." He maintains that "few other institutions in the U.S. have such a depth of materials for a distinct region like the South Carolina Lowcountry, covering as lengthy a period of time."
Founded in 1773, the Charleston Museum is considered America's first museum. Its mission is "to educate Charleston area residents and visitors about the natural and cultural history of the South Carolina Lowcountry through collections, exhibitions, preservation, programs and research."