NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The original Emancipation Proclamation, a document that changed the lives of countless African-Americans during the Civil War, is going on display in Nashville as the fragile historical document makes its only stop in the Southeast on a 150th anniversary tour.
The exhibit opens Tuesday — fittingly on the anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's birthday — at the Tennessee State Museum and runs through Monday. It's a rare visit outside the nation's capital for the original document Lincoln signed in 1863 declaring "forever free" all slaves held in Confederate states rebelling against the Union.
Because lights are harmful to the papers, the document can only be viewed for 72 hours over the course of the six days. After Feb. 18, a replica of the Emancipation Proclamation will be on display until the exhibit ends Sept. 1.
Bruce Bustard, senior curator at the National Archives where the document is kept, said Tennessee was a key battleground in the war, so he expects the "Discovering The Civil War" exhibit will draw many visitors interested in seeing some of the original documents from the war.
"Tennessee was an incredibly important state during the Civil War," he said. "There were more battles in Tennessee than any other state in the Union except for Virginia."
The exhibit is organized by topic, rather than chronologically like most Civil War museum exhibits. It emphasizes a wide range of documents, records and artifacts that have been preserved at the National Archives.
"What we are trying to do is tell you the little-known stories, and also some seldom seen documents and unusual perspectives on the war," said Bustard, during a preview of the exhibit Monday.
The museum gave out all of some 18,000 reservations for visitors and school groups, but it will be accommodating additional walk-in visitors, spokeswoman Mary Skinner said.