World's Largest Exhibition on the French and Indian War Opens at Smithsonian's International Gallery
"Clash of Empires: The British, French and Indian War, 1754-1763" opens at the
Smithsonian's International Gallery Friday, Dec. 15. The exhibition explores the three-sided struggle
for the possession of North America by the British, French and American Indians and its worldwide
effects. The Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center organized this exhibition in
conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution and the Canadian War Museum/Museum of Civilization.
"Clash of Empires" is on view through March 15, 2007.
(Media-Newswire.com) - More than 250 years ago, a tense struggle between Britain, France and American Indian nations for control of North America exploded into the French and Indian War. “Clash of Empires” tells the story of the war that gave 22-year-old George Washington his first taste of military experience and set American colonists on the road to revolution.
“We feel especially fortunate to be able to present this remarkable exhibition along with the Heinz History Center, one of our Smithsonian affiliate museums,” said Ellen Dorn, director of exhibitions at the International Gallery. “The exhibition skillfully exposes the visitor to artifacts from museums all over the world, which together will help to tell the story of an important time in American and, indeed, world history. The story is masterfully told and will engage both children and adults and will hopefully spur them on to learn more about this period of history and how it shaped America.”
“Clash of Empires” opened at the Heinz History Center in May 2005 before traveling to the Canadian War Museum/Museum of Civilization in Ottawa, where it closes in mid-November. The exhibit has won a number of national awards, including an award of merit from the American Association for State and Local History.
“As the most definitive exhibition ever produced on the French and Indian War, ‘Clash of Empires’ tells the story of what Winston Churchill called ‘the first world war,’” said Andy Masich, Smithsonian Institution News Oct. 30, 2006 SI-402-2006 2 president and CEO of the Heinz History Center. “We are pleased to export the story of western Pennsylvania’s importance to the making of America as the exhibition travels to the Smithsonian Institution, our longstanding partner.”
Exhibition Highlights “Clash of Empires” features nearly 300 rare artifacts on loan from 63 lenders around the world, including nine life-like models that allow visitors to come face-to-face with history. These models represent the war’s most fascinating characters, including Seneca leader Tanaghrisson; an angry French officer burning his own flag; and a distraught young George Washington after he signed the Treaty of Fort Necessity. Highlights include:
• The original Fort Necessity surrender document signed by George Washington, his cocommander, Capt. James Mackay, and French commander Louis Coulon de Villiers on July 3, 1754; this document sparked the extension of the French and Indian War from a North American conflict to a global expansion. ( Courtesy of The Royal Ontario Museum )
• A unique Revolutionary War era British officer’s uniform coat worn by Charles Langlade, the son of an Ottawa Indian mother and a French Canadian father who fought against British and colonial American forces during the French and Indian War. ( Courtesy of the Neville Public Museum of Brown County in Green Bay, Wis. )
• A silver presentation medal, the first American military decoration, which was presented to Pennsylvania provincial officers and future American Brig. Gen. Hugh Mercer in recognition of his leadership in an attack on the Indian town of Kittanning, Del., Sept. 8, 1756. ( Courtesy of the city of Fredericksburg, Va., loan facilitated by APVA Preservation Virginia and the Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop )
• Porcupine quill-decorated moccasins made by Native American women during the 18th century. ( Courtesy of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian )
A collection of 32 rare, 18th-century paintings will be on display in the exhibition. This is the largest group of portraits and historical works relating to the French and Indian War ever exhibited. Featured paintings include two pieces by Benjamin West, a native of Pennsylvania who went on to achieve fame as a historical painter to British King George III: “American Indian and Family” ( circa 1764 ), which depicts an American Indian father leaving his family to go to war ( Courtesy of the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons in London ), and “General Johnson Saving a Wounded French Officer from the Tomahawk of an American Indian” ( circa 1764-1768 ), one of the few from the period that depicts all three powers involved in the French and Indian War—in this case a British officer saving a French officer from attack by an American Indian ( Courtesy of the Derby Art Museum and Gallery in England ). Also presented is “Colonel George Washington” ( 2005 ), by Robert SI-402-2006 3 Connell, a fascinating new portrait that depicts Washington in his early 20s ( Courtesy of Robert Connell ).
The Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution and is the largest history museum in Pennsylvania. The History Center also includes the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum and the Library and Archives.
The Smithsonian’s International Gallery, located in the S. Dillon Ripley Center on the National Mall at 1100 Jefferson Drive S.W., presents temporary exhibitions in art, history, science and technology that complement the Institution’s existing educational programs and collections. It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except Dec. 25, and admission is free. # # #
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