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Exhibit spotlights 'Faces of Heroes'

July 22, 2006|by KATE S. ALEXANDER/Staff Correspondent

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Hanging on a jailhouse wall, staring back from the old photographs and charcoal portraits are the faces of heroes. Behind these solemn expressions lie stories of survival, of tragedy, of Franklin County.

Honoring those who fought in, aided in and survived the Civil War, these pictures piece together the "Faces of Heroes" exhibit on display at the Old Jail House Museum and Library in Chambersburg. The exhibit is the work of Ann Hull, president of the Franklin County Historical Society-Kittochtinny.

According to Hull, the exhibit began deep in an old jail cell among box after box of photos.

"We have thousands of old photos," Hull said as she entered the old cell, now used for storage. She currently is working to catalog and preserve each photo housed in the damp cell.

Recently, however, as she worked with the photos, Hull began noticing how many of the photographs she processed correlated with the stories she found among the old diaries and letters occupying an adjacent jail cell.

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With the popularity of the Civil War in the back of her mind, Hull decided to craft an exhibit highlighting the faces to which tales of Franklin County's Civil War history belong.

Matching faces with stories, the exhibit tells of the "warriors, angels and survivors" of the Civil War in Franklin County.

In addition to pictures, the exhibit features a few notable artifacts, including a set of silverware once buried to protect it from the flames that engulfed much of Chambersburg, as well as a complete bedroom set.

Dressed as her great-grandmother, lifetime Chambersburg resident Joan Bowen told the story of her family - the Housers - and how they and their bedroom furniture survived the burning of Chambersburg in 1864.

Bowen stands before the imposing solid wood bed and remarks about the fortune of her family.

"Our home was untouched by the rebel flames," Bowen said in the thick German accent of her great-grandmother.

The furniture passed to Bowen through generations of Housers. Looking for a place to keep her family heirlooms, she placed them on permanent loan to the museum. Bowen now serves as a docent, or guide, for the historical society, and tells her story to visitors with joy.

"It brings me closer to my great-grandmother," she said.

The "Faces of Heroes" display will continue indefinitely.

"I want to make this a permanent exhibit, but I will have to see," Hull said.

The display has no scheduled date of closing, and will remain open Thursdays through Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m.

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