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Oakland museum's Civil War camp to cater to young historians

| Sunday, July 28, 2013, 9:10 p.m.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
This medicine box is on display in the Civil War section at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall Saturday, July 27, 2013. The box was exhibited at the Pittsburgh Sanitary Fair in 1864. Craft objects like this were sold to raise money for medical and comfort supplies for the Union soldiers.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Some of the artillery that was used during the Civil War is on display at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Oakland Saturday, July 27, 2013.

Summer camps typically are a time for kids to have fun in the sun, not to dust off history books.

But Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum puts a unique twist on summer camps.

Instead of diving into a swimming pool, campers will dive into history at the Oakland museum.

For the ninth year, the museum next week will offer a history camp for children entering fifth through eighth grades. This year it focuses on the Civil War.

Campers will meet an Abraham Lincoln re-enactor, snack on cuisine made from recipes during the War Between the States, and read a novel about a Civil War soldier, among other activities.

“The kids that are out there love history and love the camp,” said Tim Neff, director of the education department. “This gives young historians a chance to sink their teeth into a specific subject.”

Every year, the camp alternates between showcasing World War II and Civil War history.

During the weeklong camp, students will learn about the war by touching artifacts such as uniforms, reading literature from the time and keeping a journal.

Neff hires guest speakers for the campers and cooks them hardtack, a hard cracker the soldiers ate. Special lessons will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Laurie McCaig thinks the camp is a perfect fit for her history buff son Max.

“My son loves history,” said McCaig, 49, of Peters. “It's probably the only camp I can think of during the summer not oriented around sports or crafts.”

This year marks Max's third history camp. The camp is so important to his mother that she plans the family vacation around it.

Max, 11, looks forward to hearing this year's speakers. His most memorable speaker was a Holocaust survivor who visited during last year's World War II camp.

“It's just interesting to see what happened,” he said.

Christina Gallagher is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at

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