The Clara Barton Museum Blog

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Welcome to the brand new Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office Museum website. We’re glad you’re here.

Images from the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office Museum

What’s the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office, Anyway?

As the Civil War drew to a close, tens of thousands of men were missing. Not only is this before GPS, before the telephone, it’s before dog tags are standard issue. Due to her time spent nursing on the battlefield, visiting prisoner of war camps, and her military contacts, Clara Barton begins to receive inquiries, asking the whereabouts of the missing men.

Mrs. J.B. Hulbert's letter, asking about her son.

Mrs. J.B. Hulbert’s letter, asking about her son. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Eager to continue to serve those in need, Clara Barton established the Missing Soldiers Office in boarding house rooms she rented on 7th Street in Washington, DC. The office received 68,162 inquiries, hoping to find out what became of beloved husbands, sons, and friends.  Clara and her small staff were able to locate over 22,000 men, including 13,000 men who died and were buried in Andersonville, the notorious Confederate prison camp.

By the end of 1868, Clara was mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted. Her doctors recommended that she go to Europe to rest. Clara left many of her belongings in the attic of the boarding house, and sailed off for Europe for a well-earned break. What she did in Europe … that’s another story that continues to affect disaster relief, trauma care, and international humanitarian law today.

Her belongings sat forgotten in the attic on 7th Street for 150 years. In 1996, the General Services Administration (GSA) owned the building and was preparing to knock it down. No one knew of Clara Barton’s connection to the space. Richard Lyons, an employee of the General Services Administration, was charged with inspecting the space. Lucky for us, Lyons was a thorough inspector. He noticed an old envelope hanging from the ceiling and climbed up to the attic to investigate. There he discovered the treasure trove of artifacts Barton left behind.  Lyons’ discovery began a twenty year project to save the building and turn it into a museum.

The Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office Museum officially opened to the public earlier this year.

What Will I Find at the Museum?

Entrance to the Missing Soldiers Office

Entrance to the Missing Soldiers Office

The boarding house rooms where Clara Barton lived and worked have been meticulously restored to how they would have appeared during Clara Barton’s residency.

As visitors explore the preserved rooms, they will hear Clara’s story, discover the roots of her tireless humanitarian work, and discuss the continuing importance of serving those in need. Literally walk in Clara Barton’s footsteps, see the artifacts that were lost to history for over a hundred years, and hear the incredible true story of one woman determined to make a difference.

What Will I Find Online?

There’s more to discover with the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office Museum’s online resources.

On the website, you can learn more about Clara’s story or the Museum’s story.

Explore our Learn section, where we’re constantly developing new resource and fun ways for learners of all ages to engage with the history.

Our Events page will keep you abreast of what’s happening.

Our social media is constantly being updated with insights about the past and connections to the present.  Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube, and be sure to read our blog.

The website is constantly being updated. If you have an idea of something you’d like to see online, let us know by e-mailing amelia.grabowski@civilwarmed.org.

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