From the September 13, 2009 issue of the York Daily Record:
Electric Map Could Make A Comeback: New Gettysburg Visitor Center Could Host A Video Presentation Of The Map
The Electric Map might have a place at the new Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center after all. More than 16 months since the famous map’s last showing, visitors continue to ask about the Gettysburg icon, park spokeswoman Katie Lawhon said. She said rave reviews of the new museum center are often punctuated by a single comment from visitors: “I really wish that you still had the map.”
Park officials have taken note, she said, and are in the middle of an “experiment” they hope will satisfy those visitors and critics who have argued that the 46-year-old Electric Map deserves to have a place in the new facility. Their idea is to create a film “based on the Electric Map presentation” that would orient visitors to Gettysburg history — and give them an alternative to viewing the museum’s current film, “A New Birth of Freedom.” The details of how it would work are still sketchy, but Lawhon said the Electric Map film has potential to create a better visitor experience.
“The common ground here is that for people who are coming to the park and they want to see the Electric Map, it’s a way to meet their needs,” she said. Created in 1963 by Joseph Rosensteel, the Electric Map used lights to depict troop movements during the Battle of Gettysburg. It could be viewed by the public for $4 before the old visitor center on Taneytown Road was closed last April.
Though the Electric Map had originally been included in the park’s general-management plan as one of three pay-to-see “interpretive venues,” park officials ultimately decided not to reopen the exhibit at the new site on Baltimore Pike. They cited a lack of interest from the public and an opportunity for new technology. Then, a year ago, some suggested reinstating the Electric Map as a means of generating revenue after the park announced its plan to institute an admission fee for the previously free museum. Officials had projected a $1.78 million shortfall. But park and foundation officials said they believed the potential revenue from the Electric Map would not resolve the overall problem.
The Electric Map was disassembled earlier this year and placed in storage, where it remains today. But before it was taken apart, the Electric Map presentation was filmed, Park Superintendent John Latschar said Thursday. The film is being edited, he said.
“When it’s ready, we’re just going to run an experiment,” Latschar said, adding that park officials have heard from many visitors who “desperately missed the map.” The experiment, Latschar said, will be to show both the Electric Map film and “A New Birth of Freedom” simultaneously “and let visitors vote.”
Asked to explain further, Lawhon said that doesn’t mean the park intends to offer only the more popular film. Rather, she said, visitors will likely have a choice of which film they’d like to view before moving on to the Cyclorama painting presentation. That’s possible because there are two theaters in the museum. Calling it a hybrid of old and new technology, Lawhon stressed the Electric Map film is still an experiment. “If we get it up and running, we would probably leave it as a second option,” she said.
I’m not the least bit surprised to hear that there’s a clamor to bring back the Electric Map. A lot of people have a warm place in their hearts for it, including me, and I think that the Park Service can do a lot to bring joy to a lot of people by bringing back some incarnation of it. I wholeheartedly support the idea of finding a way to return it to its rightful place, even if it is a film presentation of it. It belongs somewhere in the new VC.Scridb filter