Topic: Administrative

November 24, 2014

Former Ball State trustee donates collection of Civil War artifacts to university's library
John Straw, assistant dean for digital initiatives and special collections, and archives specialist Becky Marangelli review materials included in the Frank A. Bracken U.S. Civil War Collection, which include (bottom image) a reenactment uniform worn by Bracken and a sword used by Bracken's great-grandfather, a first lieutenant in the Civil War.

A new exhibit opening at Bracken Library will feature a vast assortment of Civil War artifacts donated by a former trustee with deep family ties to the university. The Frank A. Bracken U.S. Civil War Collection focuses on battlefield preservation, showcasing artifacts, photos, weapons, maps, re-enactment uniforms authentic to the period, personal papers and more than 300 academic and rare books about the Civil War and President Abraham Lincoln. 

The exhibit will be displayed on the second floor of Bracken, outside of the Archives and Special Collections room, beginning Dec. 1. To commemorate the occasion, there will be a free guest lecture at 6:30 that evening in Bracken Library, Room 104. The event is coordinated by The Friends of Alexander M. Bracken Library and will feature Nicole Etcheson, Alexander M. Bracken Professor of History and author of several books on the Civil War. Her presentation is titled "The Goodly Land of Hoosier: How the Civil War Changed Indiana."

Donated items personal to Bracken

The Frank A. Bracken U.S. Civil War Collection is a gift from its namesake, an Indianapolis attorney who served more than 30 years as a member of the university's governing body. Including his father, Alexander M. Bracken, his grandfather, Frank C. Ball, and his great-uncle, George A. Ball, a member of Frank's family has served as a trustee from the time the five Ball brothers founded the institution until today. Frank's son, Thomas C. Bracken, became a member of the board in 2012.

"It's not only a legacy collection for the library, but a wonderful collection for our students, who will now have these outstanding materials to support curriculum being taught here on the war," said John Straw, assistant dean for digital initiatives and special collections. 

Several of the items belonged to Bracken's great-grandfather, William Holsworth Bracken, who served as a first lieutenant in the Indiana Calvary during the war. Archives specialist Becky Marangelli pointed out a photograph from the era of the elder Bracken surrounded by fellow officers in full dress. "This is one of my favorite pieces in the collection," she said. "The family connection to this collection makes it all the more special."

Bracken's re-enactment uniform featured

Straw said the Bracken family's allegiance to the university — and Bracken Library in particular — cemented Frank's decision to donate the items to the library named after his father. In the past, Frank gave Civil War presentations at the library, where he would don the same uniform he wore in re-enactments and which is now included in the collection. Bracken was an avid researcher of Civil War topics and was involved in battlefield preservation as a member of the Civil War Preservation Trust. 

The exhibit will be on display at the library through early 2015. Next year marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, which came to a close with Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. To see materials from the exhibit online, visit the library's digital media repository