New Civil War drama starts Jan. 17 on NPT; local curator writes guest blog

Mercy Street, PBS’ first original American drama in more than a decade, premieres Sunday, Jan. 17, at 9 p.m. Set during the Civil War, Mercy Street was inspired by real people and follows the lives of two volunteer nurses – New England abolitionist Mary Phinney and Confederate belle Emma Green – working in Mansion House, a military hospital based in the Green family’s luxury hotel in Union-occupied Alexandria, Va.

The six-part series will air on consecutive Sundays through Feb. 21, with replays Thursdays at 9 p.m.

The show contrasts images of genteel interiors and fine gowns with scenes of appalling injuries and breakthrough medical procedures. The characters find themselves navigating a complex world of social and institutional politics, moral questions and personal challenges.

In an effort to achieve historical accuracy, the show’s scripts were vetted by a team of experts on Civil War medicine, military history, African American history, women in the Civil War, and other topics. These advisors were led by Civil War historian and author James McPherson.

We’ve invited local historian Rob DeHart to share his perspective on the series as a guest blogger. DeHart is currently writing a book entitled “Interpreting American Medicine for Museums and Historic Sites,” which will be published by Rowman & Littlefield.

DeHart has 15 years of museum experience and is a curator at the Tennessee State Museum here in Nashville where he specializes in technology and cultural history. In 2014, he curated the museum’s award-winning temporary exhibition “Slaves and Slaveholders of Wessyngton Plantation.” (That exhibition was one of the inspirations for NPT senior producer’s Emmy-nominated Tennessee Civil War 150 documentary, Wessyngton Plantation: A Family’s Road to Freedom.)

DeHart received his M.A. in public history from Middle Tennessee State University in 2001. He is a peer reviewer for the American Alliance of Museums and serves on the organization’s exhibition awards committee.

Watch this space for Rob’s blog posts in the coming weeks.

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