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The Writing on the Walls: Analyzing Civil War Graffiti with Advanced Technology

Evening Program

Thursday, February 18, 2021 - 6:45 p.m. ET
Code: 1J0072
$25 - Member
$30 - Non-Member
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Multispectral imaging technology reveals layers of hidden information


  • This program is part of our Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
  • Platform: Zoom
  • Online registration is required.
  • If you register multiple individuals, you will be asked to supply individual names and email addresses so they can receive a Zoom link email. Please note that if there is a change in program schedule or a cancellation, we will notify you via email, and it will be your responsibility to notify other registrants in your group.


Long-unseen graffiti offers a rare and valuable insight into the lives of individual soldiers who fought in the Civil War. Historic Blenheim in Fairfax, Virginia, 17 miles west of Washington, D.C., is a treasure trove of soldiers’ names, regiments, hometowns, dates, personal messages, and pictographs.

Built around 1859, the Greek Revival-style brick farmhouse owned by Albert and Mary Willcoxon was so new when the Civil War began that the uncured lime plaster walls were unpainted. In 1862 and 1863 they were covered with extensive graffiti by Union soldiers, which became preserved as the walls dried. Now owned and operated by the City of Fairfax, the graffiti and the walls are being analyzed with advanced digital imaging technology, providing more details to guide the continued preservation of this rare hidden glimpse into the past.

Join members of a team from the City of Fairfax to hear the story of Historic Blenheim, its role in the Civil War, and the latest preliminary findings from a recent imaging campaign there. Historic resources specialist Andrea J. Loewenwarter offers a virtual tour of the house and presents examples that capture the graffiti and the condition of the walls. Michael B. Toth, president of R.B. Toth Associates demonstrates the multispectral imaging process and other technologies that are revealing new layers of the history of the Civil War and an ordinary Virginia house that played a part in it.


  • Unless otherwise noted, registration for streaming programs typically closes two hours prior to the start time on the date of the program.
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  • Separate Zoom link information will be emailed closer to the date of the program. If you do not receive your Zoom link information 24 hours prior to the start of the program, please email Customer Service for assistance.
  • View Common FAQs about our Streaming Programs on Zoom.


In videos, Michael B. Toth offers a close-up look at how technology enhances once-hidden graffiti on the walls of Blenheim and Andrea J. Loewenwarter traces how the discovery helped to identify a Civil War soldier behind it.

This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.