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Old and New


Last Wednesday I photographed several items that will be included in the exhibition An American Turning Point: The Civil War in Virginia, which opens on February 4 at the VHS. The photo shoot included several flags and paintings that just returned from conservation, a sewing machine, a chair, and a pair of boots, among other things.

Dinwiddie Flag

Flag, Virginia State Pattern, from the Ladies of Dinwiddie County (Virginia Historical Society, 1990.100.481)

Battle Flag

Confederate Battle Flag (Virginia Department of Historic Resources, IL1964.42)

Anne Campbell Thomas

Anne Campbell Thomas by Louis P. Dieterich (Virginia Historical Society, 1975.22)

The Battle Between the Monitor and the Merrimac

The Battle Between the Monitor and the Merrimac, by Xanthus Smith, c. 1880 (Virginia Historical Society, 1998.53)

Jubal Early

Jubal A. Early by John Wycliffe Lowes Forster (Virginia Historical Society 1974.25)

Sewing Machine

Sewing Machine (Virginia Historical Society, 1997.79.A)

Confederate States Congress chair

Confederate States Congress chair (Virginia Historical Society, 1998.84.1)

English Congress gaiters

English Congress gaiters (Virginia Historical Society, 1992.70.A-B)

My colleague Jamie Davis helped me place the items on a white backdrop.  In an effort not to mar the paper, we removed our shoes before walking on it.  We unpacked the Civil War–era boots and started to set them—a task that proved much more difficult than I had anticipated.  How many hours have I spent shopping for shoes online?  I really ought to remember how to make them look good.  While arranging and rearranging, I was struck by how similar these old boots were to the ones that Jamie had just taken off of his feet.  Not only were they close in size, but the style and construction of the shoes were also not that different.  There they were . . . old and new . . . right next to one another.  I had to take a picture.


Boots: 150 years old on the left. Three weeks old on the right.

One hundred and fifty years of boot evolution, and not much has changed.  I was surprised.  Maybe I shouldn’t have been, but think about all that has changed.  The wearer of those boots lived in a completely different world than the one we live in today. We have hybrids, not horses; mini-skirts, not hoop skirts; an African American president, not slavery.  What marvelous advances we have made!  Comparing the new to the old makes me really appreciate how far we’ve come.  And don’t worry, the surface similarities don’t have me fooled.  I wouldn’t want to walk a mile in those old boots for anything.

Meg Eastman is the digital collections manager at the Virginia Historical Society

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Lindsay Horne permalink
    01/18/2011 8:13 pm

    What an awesome post! Can’t wait to see the exhibit!


  2. 01/19/2011 3:31 pm

    We’ll be there.
    Hopefully a lot of CW photos to discuss about… drooling!!


  3. 01/21/2011 2:34 pm

    Dear Ms. Eastman,
    I enjoyed your website and I was wandering if you could help me. I read an article about Robert Adams and they say there is a picture of him in the following publication, Portraits and Statuary of Virginians”, an illustrated catalog by Ray O. Hummel, Jr. and Katherine M. Smith and it is also suppose to be hanging in the Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Va. Is there anyway that you can verify or help me find a copy. Thank you Janice Poole.


    • Meg Eastman permalink
      01/21/2011 3:15 pm

      Ms. Poole,
      The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is our next door neighbor. If you come to visit us, you should stop by to see them too…or vice versa. Regarding the portrait you mentioned, you will probably want to contact one of the curators at VMFA. This page from their web site lists contact information for them:


  4. Margaret Kidd permalink
    02/24/2011 11:45 am

    Great post Meg! I really liked the contrast of the boots. Glad you thought to take a picture of them together.



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