09 November 2008 by Published in: Rants 7 comments

I am no admirer of Dr. John Latschar, the present superintendent of the Gettysburg National Military Park. There are plenty of reasons why, but I won’t bore you with the details again. Suffice it to say that there are two unforgivable sins in my world: lying to me and wasting my time. This guy has done both.

The following press release was issued by the Gettysburg Foundation several days ago:

Gettysburg, Pa. (November 7, 2008)-Gettysburg National Military Park Superintendent John Latschar will be leaving his post on March 1, 2009 to become the new president of the nonprofit Gettysburg Foundation, it was announced today by the Gettysburg Foundation and the National Park Service.

“John’s vision and leadership are an important part of the successful public-private partnership between the Gettysburg Foundation and the National Park Service,” said Robert Kinsley, Chair of the Gettysburg Foundation. “John’s experience and dedication exemplifies the type of leader we are looking for as we continue to work with the National Park Service to preserve Gettysburg for future generations.” Latschar was selected after a unanimous vote by the Board of Directors for the Foundation.

“Obviously, Bob is leaving some huge shoes to fill,” said Latschar. “No one else could have taken the Gettysburg Foundation from a concept to the opening of our new museum and visitor center in eight short years. I’m excited about the opportunity to continue to work towards the preservation and care of Gettysburg NMP and Eisenhower NHS from a new perspective. My goal will be to ensure that we continue our momentum, and to move the organization forward into a new era of philanthropy for the benefit of this and future generations,” said Latschar.

Working as a partner with the National Park Service, the Gettysburg Foundation has raised $103 million to build a new park Museum and Visitor Center which has ensured the preservation of the Gettysburg’s museum collections and the Cyclorama painting. The facility’s 24,000 square feet of museum exhibits have improved visitor understanding of the significance of the Battle of Gettysburg within the context of the causes and consequences of the American Civil War. A final keystone to the project will occur this winter when the park and the Gettysburg Foundation demolish two outdated visitor facilities located upon the center of the Union Army’s battle line of July 1863.

“John’s background and perspectives as an army officer, a combat veteran, a Ph.D. historian, and park superintendent contributed to his success in addressing preservation challenges at both Gettysburg NMP and the Eisenhower Site in innovative ways,” said Dennis Reidenbach, Regional Director for the National Park Service Northeast Region. “The projects and partnerships he created have dramatically improved the park’s ability to meet its mission now and for the future.”

“It has been a pleasure to work with the dedicated park staff, our partners, and the community to create the new museum and implement battlefield rehabilitation to restore Gettysburg’s historic integrity and enhance visitor understanding of the battle. I’m also proud of our combined efforts with Main Street Gettysburg and others to develop the Wills House, a National Park Service museum opening February 2009 in downtown Gettysburg about the aftermath of battle and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address,” said Latschar. “As President of the Gettysburg Foundation, we will continue to work with all our Gettysburg-area partners on the implementation of the Borough of Gettysburg Interpretive Plan.

Latschar has been superintendent of Gettysburg National Military Park since 1994. He is a 31-year veteran of the National Park Service. Prior to his appointment at Gettysburg, he served as the first Superintendent of Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, Pa., and in various capacities at the NPS Denver Service Center. He has been recognized by the National Park Service for his leadership numerous times, including being named Superintendent of the Year for the Northeast Region of the NPS in 1991 and in 2001, Superintendent of the Year for Natural Resource Stewardship in 2003 and for Cultural Resource Stewardship in 2000.

The Gettysburg Foundation is in the midst of a $125 million Campaign to Preserve Gettysburg, which includes the construction–now complete–of the new Museum and Visitor Center at Gettysburg National Military Park. The Foundation’s broad preservation mission began in 1989 and includes land preservation, battlefield rehabilitation, artifact preservation and monument and cannon-carriage preservation. The Foundation has more than 30,000 members and supporters nationwide and internationally.

Current Foundation President Robert C. Wilburn will step down March 1. Wilburn came to the Gettysburg Foundation in 2000, after being President and CEO of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

“Gettysburg is one of the most important places in American history,” said Wilburn. “It has been an honor to work to preserve this hallowed ground and to excite and inspire the millions of visitors who come here each year. With John’s leadership, Gettysburg’s future will be preserved.”

The Gettysburg Foundation is a private, non-profit educational organization working in partnership with the National Park Service to enhance preservation and understanding of the heritage and lasting significance of Gettysburg.

While Latschar is to be commended for his tree-cutting program at Gettysburg and for restoring the battlefield to its 1863 appearance, this sort of feathering of his nest is precisely the sort of unethical, conflict of interest that I expected him to pursue. He used his position as park superintendent to create and foster the Foundation, and now, he’s going to profit handsomely from it. No surprises there.

I will address the conflicts of interest and the ethical issues in a second post tomorrow. For now, I’m simply too disgusted to deal with it today.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Brian S.
    Mon 10th Nov 2008 at 10:27 am

    Eric,

    Just wow. Speechless. Talk about using his contacts to get ahead. Brian

  2. Randy
    Mon 10th Nov 2008 at 11:00 am

    Eric:
    OK. First, they build an artifact-less Gettysburg museum that seems to feature pretty much everything except for the Battle of Gettysburg. Then, they can’t seem to be able to tear down the old cyclorama building, the removal of which was one of the reasons given for building the artifact-less musem. Now this. What’s in the water up there? Wow.

    Randy

  3. Mon 10th Nov 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Hi Eric,

    Just wanted to provide another link on this in case you didn’t see it: What will be Latschar’s Legacy? from the Gettysburg Times.

    Jenny

  4. Prefers Anonymity
    Fri 06th Mar 2009 at 4:50 pm

    Randy,
    As someone intimately connected with the Gettysburg National Military Park, I feel your comments need to be addressed.

    First-the Museum. There are two standard museum formats that will be discussed here, narrative, and repository. The idea behind a repository museum is that you take everything you have and put it on display, much like the old visitor’s center museum. The idea behind a narrative museum is that you put one item on display to illustate a point. This is the style of the new museum. And calling it “artifact-less” almost makes me think that you can’t have been there. Most people take upwards of two hours to wander through.

    The advantages of a narrative museum over a repository museum is that it tells the story to people who are not familiar with it. We had plenty of complaints about not having 18 Springfield rifles on display, however, they are still there, and all you need do is email the proper authority and you may not only see them, you can, with proper supervision, handle them, which is MORE than you could have done at the old museum. And, with the new narrative museum, the technical owners of all of the artifacts, have them presented within a context (something not given with the old museum) and with a display method that allows for better preservation.

    The Cyclorama building I cannot comment on because it is actually an ACTIVE COURT CASE. If the National Park Service were to begin demolition now, they would be involved in legal struggles for time immemorial. It is not because they are sitting on their thumbs.

    Instead of focussing on these changes, which you are obviously upset about, think about the fact that now, with the restoration of the treelines, you can see where Benning and Robertson’s brigades advanced, and if you walk in the right place, you can actually find the Timber’s farm, more than you could have done years ago. Also, you should take a chance and see the Cyclorama restored. Twenty feet of sky and a ten foot verticle panel have been added where they were missing, and now the painting is hung the way it was first intended and adds perspective to the work.

    As for John Latschar, I am also not in a position to comment.

  5. ben ford
    Tue 05th May 2009 at 12:54 pm

    I don’t want to see what someone thinks I should see as a narrative.

  6. ben ford
    Tue 05th May 2009 at 1:13 pm

    I want to connect as closely s possible to the events. As someone who has been from pensicola to Fort Phil Kearney and Vicksburg to Glorieta Pass, the Alamo to
    Wilson’s Creek, The Fetterson Massacre to Reed’s Bridge, Custer Battlefeild to Goliad, I want to see the relics and material. You may want intellictual stimulation as do I but visual material brings it to life for me.

  7. C. Granderson
    Wed 11th Nov 2009 at 1:59 pm

    My family and I visited Gettysburg this past weekend, as we have done many times. I continue to be saddened by the tree removal, since I have always interpreted the battlefield as a memorial, not a source of tactical or strategic intellectual stimulation, or a way to sell t-shirts and fake firearms. Arguments that doing so restored the sight-lines, or even suggesting that it “restores” the battlefield do not hold water. Standing on Little Round Top watching tour-bus after tour-bus labor between Devil’s Den and us and then up the hill, seeing cars parked everywhere and people playing all over Devil’s Den, there is literally no sense of any kind of restoration whatsoever. If anything, the sense of peace, to the extent that there was any prior to the tree removal, degraded even more. If the intent was to restore the battlefield, then remove the monuments and roads, too. Upon completion of that task, continue to remove the various motels, fast-food joints, buffets and other tourist trappings designed to profit from, ultimately, a bloody, violent battle. The only people who really knew what it was like to be there, where there.

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