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Hand-colored portrait photograph of Rachel A. Huntley, wife of first lieutenant & quartermaster John M. D. Huntley of Co. H, 29th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment. Includes inscription in ink beneath portrait.
Rachel A. Huntley, wife of first lieutenant & quartermaster John M. D. Huntley of Co. H, 29th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment. Photo by Morgan & Brusstar, between 1861 and 1865. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.87060

Exploring Civil War Images and Building New Skills

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The following is an interview with Kimi Shirai, Stanford in Government Liljenquist Fellow and Cardinal Quarter Fellowship recipient.

Photo of Kimi Shirai in the Prints & Photographs Reading Room, with copy of photograph from the Liljenquist collection on wall in background. Photo by Prints & Photographs Division staff, 2023.
Photo of Kimi Shirai in the Prints & Photographs Reading Room, with copy of photograph from the Liljenquist collection on wall in background. Photo by Prints & Photographs Division staff, 2023.

Melissa: Thanks for speaking with us. Could you start by telling us about what brought you to this internship?

Kimi: I’m currently a rising junior at Stanford University, where I’m majoring in sociology and English with a minor in political science. I’m interested in possibly going to law school, but I want to be sure to keep doors open and explore other opportunities and different career paths. This summer I wanted to try something completely new. I had no background working at a library, but I came across the application for this position working with the Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs and it sounded really interesting. There were some photos that came from the Prints & Photographs Division that I had recognized, specifically photographs related to the Japanese incarceration camps during World War II, a topic intertwined with my family history as a Japanese American.

Photograph shows multi-ethnic group of schoolgirls at the Raphael Weill Public School in San Francisco with their hands on their hearts saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
San Francisco, Calif., April 1942 – Children of the Weill public school, from the so-called international settlement, shown in a flag pledge ceremony. Some of them are evacuees of Japanese ancestry who will be housed in War relocation authority centers for the duration. Photo by Dorothea Lange, 1942. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3a19322

The Library of Congress does essential work to make sure moments in history, such as the one above, are remembered and that future generations can learn from them. Because of this, I was interested to see what it would be like to intern at the Library of Congress. I have a background in research, so this opportunity to work with Civil War-era photographs from the Liljenquist Collection seemed like a good fit.

Melissa: Can you tell us about the Liljenquist Collection and the work you’ve been doing with it?

Kimi: The Liljenquist Collection includes photographs that reflect the experiences of people during the American Civil War. In my work with the collection, I have mainly worked with portraits of Civil War soldiers, including some who were prisoners of war or killed in action.

Before this project I had limited knowledge of the Civil War, and I had no background in photography. I now have some understanding of different photographic formats and a better knowledge of Civil War history.

During my fellowship I have worked on several projects. One has involved inventorying the items in a new accession, which included different photographic formats such as ambrotypes, tintypes, and cartes de visite.

For other projects, I applied my research experience to research the photographer and the person sitting for the photograph for select images. For example, I’ve tried to find documentation of whether a depicted soldier was missing in action or killed in action using tools like Ancestry.com, Find a Grave, and various other databases. I also worked to find the first names of women depicted in the images. Some of these images have been in the collection longer and some, like the one below, were acquired more recently.

Hand-colored portrait photograph of Rachel A. Huntley, wife of first lieutenant & quartermaster John M. D. Huntley of Co. H, 29th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment. Includes inscription in ink beneath portrait.
Rachel A. Huntley, wife of first lieutenant & quartermaster John M. D. Huntley of Co. H, 29th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment. Photo by Morgan & Brusstar, between 1861 and 1865. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.87060

Although the collection is nearly all photographs, there are also examples of manuscript material, so another one of my tasks has been to transcribe personal letters.

Lastly, I have been working on making suggestions for adding images to the “Faces of the Civil War” Story Map that Prints & Photographs Division staff published last year. The below portrait of Thomas Bayley Fox was one of my selections. It’s been nice to have a variety of projects to work on.

Portrait photograph of Captain Thomas Bayley Fox of Co. C, 2nd Massachusetts Infantry Regiment in uniform, sitting in chair with legs crossed.
Captain Thomas Bayley Fox of Co. C, 2nd Massachusetts Infantry Regiment in uniform. Photo by John Adams Whipple, 1862 or 1863. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.86984

Melissa: What has stood out from your experience working with the Liljenquist Collection?

Kimi: I’ve learned a lot of new things through this internship and I’ve built on my research skills. My experience with database research, project management, and generally staying organized are things I’ll use in other aspects of my life.

Even outside the projects I’ve been working on, I’ve learned a lot through this experience. I’ve attended many webinars and read many articles published by different divisions at the Library. I knew that I liked research and what better place to do it than the largest library in the world? I’m very grateful to the Library of Congress and to Stanford for supporting this opportunity.

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