13 May 2009 by Published in: Battlefield stomping 8 comments

From yesterday’s edition of The Gettysburg Times:

Electric Map may have found a home

BY SCOT ANDREW PITZER
Times Staff Writer
Published: Tuesday, May 12, 2009 7:40 AM EDT

A nonprofit group is working with the National Park Service to keep the historic Electric Map in Gettysburg.

Historic Gettysburg-Adams County is talking to the park about obtaining the map and featuring it in a new museum, possibly along Steinwehr Avenue.

“It’s quite possible that it could be coming out of storage,” HGAC President Curt Musselman said Monday morning.

Musselman was the guest of broadcaster Fred Snyder during the Breakfast Nook program on 1320 WGET.

Musselman’s group has been working to obtain the map for “about a year,” and the group has set up a task force to acquire it.

“We’re going to build a museum — a map museum — making the Electric Map a centerpiece for that,” said Judi McGee, chairwoman of the HGAC task force.

“The map itself will be restored,” McGee said. “We’ll also be able to preserve and restore some other period maps along the way and some artifacts.”

She promised that the map will be staying in the Borough of Gettysburg, although she did not name specific sites.

“We’re looking at an adaptive re-use of an old building,” McGee told Snyder. “We’re also looking at building something new. We’re looking at a number of sites.”

Steinwehr Avenue businessman Eric Uberman said Monday that he has land beside his American Civil War Museum to accommodate the group. He called the property an “optimum site” for the Electric Map.

“We’re cooperating with them — we’re not buying the map,” said Uberman.

“We have the space,” continued Uberman. “It’s the spot that has the most visibility, it’s in Gettysburg, and it’s literally right where the map was before.”

Gettysburg National Military Park spokeswoman Katie Lawhon confirmed Monday afternoon that the park is talking to the group, but stressed that “it’s very early in the process.” The park has entertained offers for the map in the past, but nothing panned out.

“Their goals would certainly be in sync with the Park Service’s goals, which would be to display the Electric Map once again to the visiting public,” said Lawhon. “The goal is to work cooperatively and re-open it to the public.”

Uberman’s property is located across the street from the entrance to the old visitor center. He thinks that the map would “do wonders” in revitalizing Steinwehr Avenue, which has seen a dramatic drop-off in commerce since the old visitor center closed.

“It would be a tremendous boost to Steinwehr,” said Uberman. “I really hope that the town fathers support this group. It would be a tremendous tax benefit to the area, and maybe pull back some of the revenue that has been lost since the new visitor center opened.”

The map was cut into four pieces in March and moved out of the old park visitor center. It is now being stored in a park facility along the Hanover Road, just east of Gettysburg. The map was not incorporated into the plans for the new $103 million Battlefield Visitor Center, which opened in April 2008 along the Baltimore Pike.

“I just think in their new design, the Electric Map didn’t fit in,” Musselman said. “Some day again, people will be able to see it.”

McGee noted that “there are some issues there with asbestos and construction that we need to address,” and that talks are ongoing between the federal government and HGAC.

HGAC has worked with the Park Service on other projects, said Musselman. The group is aiming to have the map on display again in time for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, which occurs in 2013.

“That would sort of be the time-line on the project, so don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen,” Musselman said. “Everything would take time. It’s not just a little project.”

The map entertained millions of tourists over the years, when it was the park’s primary attraction. It used 625 flashing Christmas bulbs to illustrate the movement of troops during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Opponents argue that the map’s technology is obsolete, while proponents believe that it’s an iconic American treasure.

The current map dates back to 1962-63, although the original map dates back to the 1930s.

See the complete transcript of the Breakfast Nook interview by visiting www.gettysburgtimes.com/blogs.

There’s absolutely no doubt that the technology of the Electric Map has been obsolete for years. At the same time, it’s been the first introduction to the Battle of Gettysburg for hundreds of thousands of tourists for decades, and that many have very happy memories of it. There’s also no doubt that it’s been missed by tens of thousands of tourists, including me. I also think that it would help to bring tourists back to Steinwehr Avenue, which would definitely benefit the local businesses. I view this as a real win-win scenario.

I certainly hope that this pans out and that the Map finds a home. Even if it is obsolete, it should be on display and it should be available for the world to see. I support it wholeheartedly.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Tom Thompson
    Wed 13th May 2009 at 9:14 pm

    Eric,

  2. Tom Thompson
    Wed 13th May 2009 at 9:21 pm

    Eric,
    I thought the electric map was crude the first time I saw it in 1969. But it helped me grasp the idea of the troop movements and established positions. I wondered for a long time if I was the only person who required such imagery to understand the battle.

    I missed the map last fall when I was there, and welcome the prospect of it returning

  3. Thu 14th May 2009 at 12:35 am

    I agree, that Electric Map does have a historical significance. It should have a ‘home’ for tourists to see.

  4. Ptrostle
    Thu 14th May 2009 at 10:39 am

    just a thought – I believe it is only obsolete when something more contemporary replaces it. Currently, IMHO, it’s still the best that’s out there. I have not yet been in the new VC, so I could be wrong, but I’m not certain there is anything around here that gives the visual impact that map does.

  5. Barry Truluck
    Thu 14th May 2009 at 2:05 pm

    Last year, I visited a NPS conservation facility near Charles Town, WV and to my surprise found the Electric Map neatly folded in sections in a storage room. The staff explained that they weren’t sure what was going to happen to the map, so I am glad to hear that if may have a future!

  6. Thu 14th May 2009 at 4:33 pm

    This is great news Eric. I first saw the Electric Map in 1978 and was lucky to see it again in 2006. It was as if time had stood still. That is still the BEST explanation of the Union’s ‘fish hook’ line that I’ve seen.

  7. Sarah
    Tue 26th May 2009 at 9:26 pm

    I would prefer that Eric Uberman not be involved in the slightest, but it’s nice that they’ve perhaps found a new home for the map.

  8. Tue 14th Jun 2011 at 10:24 am

    With todays digital tech the map should be able to be updated to support many more years with little maintance required. This would be a good investment for some company.

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