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On 40 Years

The founding of MI sits between two cultural phenomena spread across four decades.

On one side lay the writings of Bruce Catton and the Civil War centennial; on the other, the landmark photograph-driven documentary by Ken Burns.

Historian David Blight noted “Catton’s works became a kind of national siren call into the past, to the scenes of a distant but deeply resonant war.”
Historian David Blight noted “Catton’s works became a kind of national siren call into the past, to the scenes of a distant but deeply resonant war.”

Some Civil War enthusiasts inspired by Catton and the commemorations of the 1960s turned to collecting war relics. Noted author and collector Ross Kelbaugh refers to this group as the “Centennial Generation.” These energetic pioneers plowed fertile collecting ground, formed networks and emerged as a community. Hungry for knowledge, there were few references available to them. Beaumont Newhall’s 1937 classic, The History of Photography from 1839 to the Present, satisfied some of their pangs.

MI arrived in 1979. By this time, the community had grown considerably. Dealer catalogs and shows provided ample opportunities to build collections—and MI became essential as a source for information and context.

A decade later, when PBS aired The Civil War miniseries, MI welcomed a new generation of collectors inspired by the photographs and narration they had seen on television. More books followed, including Kelbaugh’s essential 1991 guide, Introduction to Civil War Photography, William A. Albaugh’s Confederate Faces, Greg Mast’s State Troops and Volunteers, and more.

The Digital Age rose upon the foundations laid by the Centennial Generation and the Ken Burns Generation. Witness the growth of sites dedicated to image sales and auctions, the social media revolution and the recent launch of Civil War Photo Sleuth.

MI remains a relevant resource. We are grateful to be part of the community for these past 40 years, and remain committed to our mission to showcase, interpret and preserve these remarkable windows to our past.

What is the next cultural phenomenon to shape our community? One can only guess. But I am confident it will come. And when it does, MI will be there to do what we do best.

Ronald S. Coddington
Editor & Publisher


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