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Bauer: Depot Museum brings Civil War celebration to Batavia

The Depot Museum in Batavia is one of more than 1,800 museums across America to offer free admission to military personnel and their families this summer in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families and the Department of Defense. The free admission program is available to all current and former military personnel and up to five of their family members.

“Blue Star Museums is a collaboration between the arts and military communities,” said NEA acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa. “Our work with Blue Star Families and museums ensures that we can reach out to military families and thank them for their service and sacrifice.”

The Batavia Depot Museum’s exhibit “Red, White & Blue” focuses on the day in the life of a soldier. The exhibit will be on display through Sept. 1. The exhibit also runs in alignment with the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. What better way to help remember than to recognize the Batavia and Fox Valley participants in the war?

Chris Winter, curator of the Depot Museum, is responsible for bringing the exhibits to life, which isn’t an easy task.

“I put about a month to two months of time into researching and finding artifacts or photographs for display before the exhibit even goes up,” Winter said.

The “Red, White & Blue” exhibit includes many artifacts that soldiers would use on a day-to-day basis. Items include a wool uniform, a toothbrush, playing cards, a comb, a shaving mirror and musical instruments that soldiers used to play for recreation and also on the battlefield. Children will be invited to try on the uniform to experience what it may have been like for a soldier.

One of the most historical pieces of the exhibit is a 34-star American flag. This particular flag is painted with Batavia history. It was carried by a man named William Steward, a Batavia soldier, during the famous Sherman’s March to the Sea in 1864.

“This made me fully realize the significant role that Batavia soldiers played in the war,” Winter said.

The exhibit ends just in time for the Depot Museum’s Civil War celebration on the Batavia Riverwalk Sept. 7 and 8. Visitors can talk with soldiers and civilians in period dress, experience what the “Batavia Boys of 1862-1864” went through as they lived and died during America’s brother vs. brother war, and learn about the men from this age who served their country.

Throughout the Civil War event, visitors will have an opportunity to learn about the types of units soldiers would have served in, listen to music that kept the soldiers grounded on both the battlefield and the home front, and see and touch actual objects and reproductions of objects from the Civil War at the Depot Museum.

In short, the event will lead you through the past so you can better understand the war’s impact on Batavia and the Fox Valley.

For more information, call the Batavia Depot Museum at 630-406-5275 or visit

• Trevor Bauer is a marketing intern for the Batavia Park District. Contact him at

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