Collections at Fort Ward Museum
About the Collections
The permanent collection is diverse, with holdings that include: military equipment related to the infantry, artillery, cavalry and navy; edged and shoulder weapons; flags; musical instruments; medical equipment; uniforms and clothing accessories; cooking and mess equipment; artwork, primarily period prints of both Union and Confederate significance; documents; photographs; and artifacts excavated at Fort Ward.
A glimpse into the Fort Ward collection reveals many treasures that create a profile of Civil War army life, among them a Sibley stove, a medical field pannier manufactured by the Squibb Company, an over-the-shoulder saxhorn, a silk flag belonging to Gen. John Logan, and a uniform jacket and accessories worn by a soldier in the 9th New York "Hawkins" Zouaves.
Below are a few collection highlights.
The Dorothy C.S. Starr Research Library at Fort Ward comprises over 2,000 books, periodicals and archival materials on general Civil War history and the Defenses of Washington. The library contains the complete reference series, The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Other important resources include photographs, largely from the Library of Congress and the National Archives, of general war subjects and scenes from the Defenses of Washington. Of special note is a collection of research material which was donated by the authors of several books on the historic defense system. The library has few regimental histories and does not contain military service records.
The Library is open to the public for on-site research, by appointment. Please call the Museum prior to your visit to make sure that the Library is not temporarily closed due to a special program or meeting. Written requests will be answered on a case by case basis, although the small staff is not able to conduct extensive reference searches. Direct inquiries to the Director, Fort Ward Museum.
Researchers who are interested in examining a collection object for historical study must submit a written request to the Museum Director. If the request is approved, an appointment must be scheduled. Researchers will be attended by Museum staff when examining collection objects. Address inquiries to the Director, Fort Ward Museum.
Share the Past with Us
Some of Fort Ward’s most prized collection objects and important reference discoveries on the Defenses of Washington and wartime Alexandria have been provided by interested public patrons. The Museum staff is always seeking new information and objects to help expand knowledge and interpretation of this historic defense system and Civil War Alexandria. This includes photographs taken in the Defenses, as well as letters, diaries, and military records pertaining to soldiers stationed in Alexandria and the District of Columbia forts, and civilians residing in the area. If you have historical material to share, please contact Fort Ward Museum. Photocopied materials for the Library reference collection on the Defenses of Washington are appreciated, and may be forwarded to the Museum..
Fort Ward Museum also welcomes donations of original objects and documents related to the Defenses of Washington for inclusion in its permanent collection. If you are interested in donating original materials to the Museum, please contact the Director.
Like all professional museums, Fort Ward Museum abides by a Collections Policy in acquiring and caring for collections. The Historic Alexandria Museums worked together to create a set of collections policies that define the scope of each museum’s collections and set policies for caring for them in accordance with the special needs of each collection.
The following is excerpted from the Museum's Collections Policy. For more information, contact the Museum.
Collection Goals: Fort Ward Museum collects historic artifacts and information dating 1860-1870 that are relevant to the history of the American Civil War, the Defenses of Washington and Fort Ward, and the City of Alexandria. Emphasis is placed on acquiring objects of Union provenance to better interpret the historic site. The scope of the collection is based upon objects of general Civil War historical value, with a secondary concentration on acquiring objects of local significance. Major categories of the permanent collection include: arms and equipment related to the artillery, infantry, cavalry and navy; uniforms and clothing accessories; artwork, rare documents and photographs; medical instruments; mess equipment; and musical instruments.
Acquisition: Objects accessioned into the permanent collection by means of gift, bequest or purchase. Clear title to the object is held by the Museum.
Adequate provenance of the object must be established for it to be accepted into the permanent collection. If satisfactory provenance is not provided by the donor, the Director may take the object into temporary custody to determine the object’s relevance to the collection. If satisfactory provenance is not established, or the object is not found to be compatible with the Museum’s collection policy, the Director will not accept the object into the permanent collection.
The donor must have clear title to the object, and convey this title and all rights of ownership to the Museum without restrictions.