05 August 2008 by Published in: Battlefield stomping 26 comments

The following review of the new visitor center at Gettysburg by publisher Pete Jorgensen appeared in the most recent issue of the Civil War News:

The new Museum and Visitor Center at Gettysburg National Military Park is not a museum at all and it has little on display regarding the battles of July 1, 2 and 3 in 1863.

It is a massive, attractively designed structure with vast amounts of exhibit space devoted not to exhibits, but to presentations. It also has a large gift shop operated by Event Network, a for-profit cultural attraction retailer.

The museum/visitor center is owned by a private, non-profit foundation which has engaged the National Park Service as groundskeepers, guides and guardians of the country’s largest collection of Civil War artifacts, which are stored away, far out of the visitor’s view.

Just before the “museum” opened, Gettysburg National Park Superintendent John Latschar tried to excuse the lack of exhibits and the identification of artifacts by saying of the old visitor center, “What we’ve got here right now is what is known as a collections museum. We’ve got rows and rows of rifles and pistols and cases full of battle debris, and zero story.”

He explained, “What we’re creating is a storyline museum, where you use artifacts to illustrate the storyline. So we have no need for 40 varieties of rifle muskets. We’re trying to provide our visitors with a basic understanding of the battle of Gettysburg in the context of the war and in the context of America….”

For 10 years people who have been involved in this project argued that the reason for building a new museum was that they had storage rooms full of more than 38,000 artifacts from the famous Rosensteel Collection and no room to display them.

Now that they have the room, they still have no interest in displaying them. We’d call this “museum fraud.”

This collection was started by John Rosensteel of Gettysburg who was age 16 in July 1863. In the 1890s he opened the Round Top Museum to display his collection to visitors. He expanded his collection by purchasing others and bought from local residents who had barns full of stuff from the battlefield.

In 1921, his nephew George Rosensteel opened the Gettysburg National Museum on land purchased from his uncle and continued buying up other Civil War artifact collections. His museum remained in private hands until 1971 when it was donated to the National Park Service.

At the former visitor center — the Rosensteel museum building — the Park Service displayed 6,633 artifacts from the Rosensteel collection. In April, when the new visitor center opened, only 1,338 artifacts were put on display, according to a Park Service news release.

That’s 79.8 percent fewer objects now exhibited than during the 37 years the Park Service has been responsible for the collection. It’s only 3.5 percent of the total artifacts locked away in storage.

We don’t even have to go to the definition of what the word “is” really “is” to unravel this outright fraud. Just pick up the dictionary — any dictionary — and look up the definition of the word “museum.”

You won’t find any definition for a “storyline museum,” nor will you find that a museum is “a place where stories are told.” No. That’s under “theater.”

The universally recognized arbiter of the language is the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary. It states: museum.n, A building or institution in which objects of historical, scientific, artistic, or cultural interest are preserved and exhibited. Also: the collection of objects held by such an institution. ?

There is no secondary definition of the word “museum.”

Gettysburg park officials apparently don’t know or don’t care what a museum is or what the general public expects to find in a museum. They built a “theater” to tell a “storyline” and now are trying to convince us that it is a new kind of museum that people who write dictionaries don’t know about yet.

Since this so-called museum isn’t designed to exhibit the 38,000 plus artifacts in storage at Gettysburg National Park, why keep them hidden? Why keep them at all? Let’s have an auction so that the people who value these objects can acquire them at market price.

What purpose is served by locking up thousands and thousands of Civil War muskets, rifles, carbines, shells, belt plates, uniforms, buttons, and all sorts of other stuff? Always the excuse has been “we don’t have the room to display it.” But now that they have the room, they won’t display it and we doubt many in the Gettysburg Park management can correctly identify any five objects in the collection selected at random.

That’s their problem, but it is our problem too. It’s a problem for the American taxpayer and the public in general. It’s a problem for the thousands of school kids who visit Gettysburg each year and the tens of thousands of visitors who think they will see some of the old guns, uniforms, bullets, cannon projectiles and other artifacts left behind after the battle. These are the things they expect to find in a museum.

We suspect park managers don’t know what they have, so they don’t know what is important to put on display and what is not.

For example, Gettysburg National Military Park has the best collection of Confederate 12-pounder bronze Napoleon cannon in the country. But not a single Confederate bronze Napoleon is on display in the “museum.”

All the Union 12-pounder Napoleon cannon look the same from a distance, regardless of maker, as all were made to a set of standard specifications. But there are five types of bronze Confederate Napoleons, all with distinct profiles.

On the field at Gettysburg you can pick out a Macon Arsenal Napoleon from 200 yards away, but you have to get closer to positively identify many others. Confederate Napoleons were made at Augusta Arsenal, Macon Arsenal and Columbus Arsenal in Georgia. And at the Tredegar Foundry in Richmond, Va., at Leeds & Company in New Orleans, at Quinby & Robinson Foundry in Tennessee and at a small cannon works in Charleston, S.C.

All of these represent different scientific and historical views on cannon design and economy of materials in the 19th century. That’s stuff you go to a museum to study and see first hand.

The first case in the museum’s display area contains a mixture of 26 Union and Confederate field artillery projectiles. None are identified. You’d never know which ones were used by which side or that each one actually does have a name, type and size associated with it.

Shells, solid shot, canister rounds, case shot, rifled and smoothbore ammunition are all mixed together. To everybody except a projectile collector the case is just a pile of old iron. And that apparently includes the National Park Service museum curatorial staff.

There are four more cases with 93 artifacts identified only as Civil War Firearms. But, again, there are no individual identifications as to Union or Confederate, carbine, rifle, or musket. One of these cases has 44 “pistols,” many of which are actually revolvers, not pistols. Each, of course, had a model, maker, type name, bore size and intended use, but there is no signage to tell anybody that.

A careful review of all 93 firearms confirms that nobody on the National Park Service staff knows anything about Civil War firearms and, worse, they don’t care if you do either.

One model infantry arm was ubiquitous during the four years of war — the Model 1861 Springfield Musket. They were everywhere. They were used in every major Civil War battle, carried for four years by half the Union army and they were also fired in hundreds of skirmishes between the forces of North and South.

Springfield Armory itself turned out more than 265,000 Model 1861 rifle muskets and 21 private contractors produced another 452,000 to the same government specifications.

In total, of the 1.5-million Union infantry rifle muskets produced, 717,000 were Model 1861 Springfields.

The number on display among the 93 firearms in the Gettysburg Museum’s display lobby: Zero.

That’s right. Zero. We counted and examined the cases three times.

Zero Model 1861 rifle muskets.

It’s like a man in charge said, “Hey, Jim, go down to the basement and get some guns to fill up those display cases.” And Jim said, “Which ones do you want, John?” And the reply could have only been, “Long ones, medium ones, short ones — mix ‘em up to get a good representative sample.”

It’s not only incredible, it’s ironic.

This place claims to be the Museum and Visitor Center at Gettysburg National Military Park, and as a museum it can’t find the space to display a single example of the one model of rifle musket that was used by nearly half the Union infantry.

According to the Gettysburg Foundation’s Web site, the following was listed as the primary goal of the new building:

“Protection of the park’s collection of artifacts and archives: The park owns collections of 38,000 artifacts and 350,000 printed texts, historic photographs and other archival documents. New facilities are needed to provide appropriate storage conditions, proper care, and display of the collections.”

Well, there is no question they haven’t met their goal when it comes to the part about “display of the collections.”

Another case along the walls contains buckles, saber belt plates and buttons. There is one standard U.S. officer’s saber belt plate, one General Officer’s 3-piece wreath plate with stippled gold-leaf plating, but not a single one of the common enlisted cavalryman’s or artilleryman’s plate with a two- or three-piece silver leaf design surmounting a brass eagle.

Actually, there might be an example of the most common saber belt plate of the Union Army but it is hard to tell. In one glass case there is a field dug, tarnished and corroded belt plate that’s nearly impossible to identify. You just can’t see which applied silver leaf design it may have had, if any.

And one more — just one more — example. The oval Confederate brass enlistedman’s belt plate with a surmounted five-point star, and identified in Steve Mullinax’s book Confederate Belt Buckles & Plates on page 164 as Plate No. 299, is one of the few artifacts in the display cases with a little identification sign. It reads, “Union Militia Belt Plate” GETT #28220.

Mullinax, known for years as the country’s most informed expert on Confederate belt plates, must be wrong. The Gettysburg Museum of the American Civil War (its official name), managed by the National Park Service, apparently knows more about Confederate belt plates than the guy who wrote the book. But if Mullinax is right, that plate is worth $3,000 today and nobody will ever know it.

Just where does one go to study an exhibition of objects having scientific and historical value? All dictionaries say these objects are to be found in a “museum.” But not at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum.

There you will be charged $8 to see a film entitled “A New Birth of Freedom” that is full of its own errors, and you’ll walk through corridors with mannequins wearing reproduction uniforms, sitting on plaster horses. Then you’ll see some short film clips of the battle as you pass from room to room enjoying the “visitor experience.”

Soon, you’ll arrive at the Bookstore, Gift Shop and Refreshment Saloon, primed to open your wallet again to capture the flavor of the Civil War and perhaps your own stuffed soldier.

It is really unfortunate that those entrusted with the acquisition, conservation, study, exhibition and educational interpretation of objects having historical value have no clue as to their public responsibilities.

They are running a theater, not a museum. And they are public employees whose salaries and benefits are paid by your tax dollars.

If these new facilities were built for theater, the public should start demanding that the nation’s largest publicly owned collection of Civil War artifacts be sold — or that a museum be built to house, conserve, study, exhibit and interpret them.

Yes. A museum. Build a museum. What a novel idea.

In fairness, it should be noted that Pete visited before the identification tags were placed on the artifacts in the exhibits. They are now properly identified.

I happen to agree with Pete’s assessment of the place. I find it a real tragedy that the massive Rosensteel collection will probably never be seen in anything close to its full glory ever again. Sure, the artifacts are preserved, but so what? If nobody sees them or even knows they exist, what good are they?

All of the extraneous stuff in the museum is nice, but I would rather see the artifacts from the battle rather than a comprehensive narrative of the Civil War. Leave that to the new museum at Tredegar, or the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Instead, let’s focus the Visitor Center on Gettysburg.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Bill
    Tue 05th Aug 2008 at 9:52 am

    I have to agree with most of what is stated here. The Bookstore?Gift Shop looks like they backed a truck of junk up and just started unloading and then realized there are no books. “Wait, heres a little spot in the corner we can put them.” The film made me cringe and I was thankful to see it as part of the Gettysburg seminar a couple of weeks back for free. I could then use the $8 to buy a bobblehead soldier and a plastic sword. Depressing.

    I’ll return in the fall to see the Cyclorama, but after that , other than to pick up a guide for a specialty tour, that’s it for me.

    Thanks to you & J.D. for signing my book at the seminar, looking forward to reading it this summer.

  2. Tue 05th Aug 2008 at 9:58 am

    Instead of providing us with a statistical breakdown of what is displayed from the old collections and what is not, why doesn’t Jorgensen try to explain how the exhibits function to inform the average visitor what he/she is about see on the battlefield?

    Take this for instance:

    “Another case along the walls contains buckles, saber belt plates and buttons. There is one standard U.S. officer’s saber belt plate, one General Officer’s 3-piece wreath plate with stippled gold-leaf plating, but not a single one of the common enlisted cavalryman’s or artilleryman’s plate with a two- or three-piece silver leaf design surmounting a brass eagle.”

    How does this tell me anything interesting about how the objects function or fail to function given the goals of the exhibit? All I get from this review is a lot of whining and complaining.

    I need to see it for myself, but it seems to me that Mannie Gentile’s recent review, which offered a fairly balanced view is much more helpful.

  3. Randy
    Tue 05th Aug 2008 at 10:21 am

    Eric:
    I have been trying not to jump to hasty conclusions about the new VC, since I haven’t had the chance to visit yet. I must say however, that this review and others I have heard paint a disturbing picture. Yeah, the old VC needed to be replaced, but why on earth would the powers that be decide that we need a building dedicated to the telling of the story of the whole war, instead of the telling of the story of Gettysburg? The old VC facility was out-dated but at least it interpreted Gburg pretty well. If I want to learn about Chancellorsville or Ball’s Bluff, I’ll vist those places. And what about the artifacts? I visit museums for the artifacts, not for a multi-media experience.
    I’m taking a group for a tour of Gburg in October and I’ll definately check out the new VC before we go, but I’m beginning to wonder if taking a group to the new VC is really worth the time it would take. We might be better off just spending more time on the battlefield. I’ll try to keep an open mind but it sure looks like a golden opportunity to have a world class facility dedicated to this important battle has been squandered. What a pity.

    Randy

  4. Charlie Knight
    Tue 05th Aug 2008 at 12:38 pm

    As a museum curator myself, I feel compelled to throw my 2 cents in…I can appreciate both sides of what the NPS has TRIED to do with the new facility at Gettysburg. At my institution, our collection spans Civil War to Korea, with heavy emphasis on WWII. We have about 12,000 artifacts in our collection, which I am responsible for, in addition to hundreds of thousands of documents, photos, etc in the archives. Of this, only a tiny fraction of our collection is on exhibit. But of those artifacts in storage, MOST will be rotated thru the permanent exhibits, or used in changing (i.e. temporary) exhibits so that they can be seen by the public. I say most, because the physical condition (or size) of some prevent their being displayed. But the items which are in storage can be viewed by anyone, be they the donor, a researcher, or merely someone who knows that we have a particular piece in our collection. What good is having an item in your collection, if you keep it squirrelled away where no one knows you have it? Conservation & preservation of artifacts is a big part of being curator, obviously. But so is using what you have available to you to educate your visitors. To me, that is where the new facility at Gettysburg fails – they have such a huge amount of historically significant material available to them, much of it quite unique, but they have relegated that to the backseat, preferring instead to build a combination Pamplin Park/Tredegar Iron Works museum filled w/new techno gadgets. They have devoted FAR too much space to non-Gettysburg related things – i.e. telling the story of the entire war. People are not comign to Gettysburg to learn any great detail about what happened in 1861. That could & should be covered in passing in one sentence, explaining that war erupted then – NOT devoting an entire gallery to it. I have only visited this new place once, and i was definitely NOT expecting to walk in and see cheap-looking peg-board displays in the lobby and then a discussion about the formation of the United States in the first gallery. The gallery on the history of the battlefield post-battle was painfully small. That is a story that can only be told there, and the NPS failed at that miserably. Don’t get me started on the supposed “book store.” I must bring this rant to a close, so…A GOOD museum exhibit consists of a balance of text, photographs or other visual elements and artifacts to tell a story. If the main galleries there are static, so be it, but they need desperately to have some venue to exhibit the other items in their collection.

  5. Tue 05th Aug 2008 at 12:47 pm

    The new VC as a point on the trip, or shall we say the “external” aspects will grow on us with time. The internal portions, mostly the museum and bookstore, will hopefully improve over time. As the father of a small child, I appreciate the number of interactive exhibits. But frankly, Monocacy did a better job with far less space. However I do know people who will spend hours at the VC and never walk the field (“too hot, to far, or not enough time”). But if they really need the full interpretation of the war from crisis to conclusion, then send them to Harrisburg!

    Maybe they should re-provision the old VC as a sort of dedicated museum front. I’m certain the park has enough relics to exhibit. Sort of split out the interpretation. One side for the average visitor. Then the old VC for us grognards. Heck, I’d be willing to pony up admission to see the wall of gun tubes again.

  6. Brian S.
    Tue 05th Aug 2008 at 1:27 pm

    All,

    Many of the Park Rangers I spoke with while the new VC was being built would always say the same thing. It was always “wait until it’s done because we’ll be able to show you all the stuff we’ve kept in the basement all these years”. And they were genuinely excited about it. Troy Harmon and Scott Hartwig talked about that aspect of the new VC quite a bit. It’s obvious the park service employees were misled too. Why go through with building a new VC to basically build better storage space. I was told by park staff that there would be revolving displays of all the “kept in storage” artifacts. But, when I went to the Gettysburg seminar the park throws every other year, and we were given a tour of the place, the museum staff down-played the temp displays. I’m very much disappointed with the place. Brian

  7. Stu Younkin
    Wed 06th Aug 2008 at 7:32 am

    I agree with Brian! What was originally touted as a great new place to show off all of the “stuff” that was supposedly collecting dust, has turned out to be nothing more than one huge monument to political correctness, with a KB Toy/Dollar General store thrown in for good measure. My first trip up there in June (with Eric and the rest of the crew from Mark Snell’s Seminar) was a major let down.

  8. Valerie Protopapas
    Wed 06th Aug 2008 at 7:50 pm

    Had a friend who visited the place. He said there was a 10 minute film about Reconstruction lauding the “post war” local governments made up of freedmen, carpetbaggers and scalawags. Unfortunately, the film never explained how all those former slaves went from field hands to members of State Legislatures and Congress in the course of two or three years most of them being illiterate during their government “service”. There was also a lot about slavery which seems to be THE seminal thrust of any study of the era in this “politically correct” era.

    What this is folks, is neither a museum nor a theater. It is pure propaganda and politically correct brainwashing writ large – and it isn’t the first place in which this is occurring. It reminds me of one Park Service guide in the old Confederate White House when asked about Jefferson Davis’ adopted black child Jim Limber almost had a nervous breakdown and simply dismissed the whole thing as a “legend”. Yeah.

    Gettysburg is merely taking its place as another in the same type of “historical correction” of which Mr. Orwell once wrote. As it is, history of the War of Secession is already VERY one sided as is evidenced by the coverage of the treatment of prisoners of war on both sides. While Andersonville is an “early Auschwitz”, nothing is said about the fact that the “dump” containing the bodies of Confederate soldiers who died in Camp Douglas in Chicago is the largest mass grave in the Western Hemisphere! These soldiers originally buried in local cemeteries were disinterred from their graves because the locals didn’t want them to sully their “hallowed ground” and the bodies were dumped in a swamp where they remained unheralded until an influx of Southerners to the area led to a monument being purchased and erected at the cost of the newcomers. Most of these men died of malnutrition, disease and exposure – all totally premeditated. The same happened at Camp Morten and Elmira (Hellmira). All of this is well documented – and conveniently ignored. Ah, but ANDERSONVILLE!

    All I can say is that the fatuous “history” being presented at Gettysburg doesn’t surprise me one bit. I expected it but it is nice to see that it is beginning to upset folks on the other side of the issue.

  9. Ed Flanagan
    Sat 09th Aug 2008 at 3:40 pm

    “……When you try to be all things to all people you end up by being nothing to nobody!…….”

    I stopped by the new Visitor Center last month during a Ted Alexander CW Seminar stop and I found that the place left me cold. I found the building had all the feeling of a bus/train/plane station: big, open and soul less. Where are all the displays we were promised? Less is not more! They would have better using one of those large vacent strip mall stores for all the displays and save themselves a hundred million dollars that could have been used somewhere else on such things as preservation. The bookstore didn’t even have “ANY” issues of Gettysburg Magazine, but did have plenty of tchotchkes (cheap trinkets) for the Great Unwashed. BUT one of my biggest turnoff was those A.D.A. Compliant parking lots, way too far for families with small kids and for Seniors, especialy during the Summer. Not a very user friendly facility. Why bother getting out of my car!

  10. Jackie Smith-White
    Thu 14th Aug 2008 at 7:06 pm

    I can’t understand why the National Park Service would go along with something as crassly commercialized as this. Particularly offensive to me was the opportunity (for a hefty fee) for my kids to put on little uniform bits and hold toy guns to pose in front of a green screen so I could end up with a historic looking photo of them on the battlefield — sort of a “join the battle for fun and profit” approach. I can’t believe this is what Abraham Lincoln was thinking when he talked about how he could not consecrate such a sacred place. What are we teaching our kids with this? How much fun it was for those poor soldiers dying for something they believed in to be there? But, he’d love that gaping-mouthed Lincoln plastic head doll in the gift shop, too, I guess. I always thought of the Park Service as a class act, but, anything for money these days, I guess. What a shock.

  11. Sat 07th Mar 2009 at 11:45 pm

    I was at the VC on the soft opening, April 2008. I was disappointed. Pete’s thoughts couldn’t be better!

    I went again in the fall to see the cyclorama. We were FORCED to watch that awful film again and then were only allowed a very limited time at the cyclorama. I doubt we had more than 3 miutes after the 5 minute program. I told my lady-friend as we were shuffled out, “Moo.”

    I will now have no use for this building. The shop is a disgrace! The showcase building is NOT a museum.

    When I go to historic places, I want to learn about them. If you can’t learn about Gettysburg at Gettysburg, where can you go?

    I regret being enthused about the project for 10 years. I was foolish enough to think they wanted to show the rest of the collection for the public.

    Bill Hallett
    president
    Civil War Roundtable of
    New Hampshire

  12. John Calcagni
    Mon 22nd Jun 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Oh my!!! I’ve been waiting for so long for the new VC and have hotel reservations for July. After reading these comments I’m considering cancelling my trip. This will be my 8th trip (twice re-enacted with the 27th CVI and the rest to absorb more of the history with family and friends). The sole reason for my return is to see ALL these artifacts which were so publicly advertised. You know, around town there’s so many tourist traps, and you always knew when visiting that the VC stood proud with proper representation. It’s so sad how everything now has to be “dumbed down” for the morons of the world. The single most important historical site in this country seems like it now wants to be a Disney attraction. Hey, maybe they should have Lee and Meade costumed characters walk around with balloons, or sell the talking bass fish that recites the Gettysburg address.

  13. Wed 26th Aug 2009 at 12:33 pm

    I think this lends a sad commentary to our national interpretation of history, but the Civil war in particular. The issue of slavery seems to be all anyone really wishes to discuss, while never putting into context anything that gives a real feel for the mindsets and reasons people had for supporting or denouncing slavery. it is a simple: SOUTH BAD, NORTH GOOD type presentation. Artifacts are not seen as quite as hip as interactive displays, and giftshops and food courts…follow the money, ALWAYS. This whole new VC thing was ALL about money, not history. I think that what they have done is cheapened one of the most important events in American history to the level of a puppet show, and whitewashed out anything that allows people to relate to the actual battle itself. Maybe they can do reenactments of Pickett’s Charge and charge a $10 admission fee! DON’T MISS PICKETTS CHARGE AT 3, 6, AND 9! GHOST WALKS WILL FOLLOW! SEE THE MORTAL WOUNDING OF GENERAL REYNOLDS IN THE ATRIUM AT 2 AND 4. What a total joke.

  14. Jude Moriarty
    Tue 29th Sep 2009 at 9:52 pm

    I once lived in Gettysburg/ before this debacle called public private partnership (always about$$$) –Kinsley’s FOLLY! Imagine the men on both sides of this carnage and Lincoln would say of this crass commercialization in the shadow of such sufferings – heroics – and man’s inhumanity to man. I have read the hearings describing this plan as a MODEL for all other national parks (God help us).

    I can now understand WHY much of this (greater plan) was withheld from the people! This was NEVER (as seen) about saving relics as heralded by the Park Service. It’s about saving the National Park Service bureaucracy –it is the selling of this hallowed ground to the highest bidder.

    These shills (all Fed agencies) charged with the preservation of sacred land – HISTORY – have given over these blood soaked fields (forever living – crying out) to the money lenders, i.e. Chinese filled junkorama – fast food slop, and a goofy film (revisionist) informing the unread on the evils of slavery forgetting the MEN who died.

    This PLAN to trash and cheapen the sacred was kept from Congress – appropriations – and the oversight process (much like what we see going on today in Foggy Bottom). It was concealed from May 9-97 – to July ’98. The Public (guardians of these grounds) were denied access to developers documents identifying a ‘small mall’.

    FOIA requests (true) were denied under the guise of protecting ‘national security’. Hucksters have no conscience. This was a planned desecration. What is IMPORTANT (very) for citizens to realize, is that this is NOT an isolated occurrence.

    If anyone thinks that the Park Service thought this up on their own – I’ve got a cannon in my backyard to sell ya. We are slowly (our history – heritage – place) and insidiously being erased. History is no longer being taught to the children – nor civics. They are without an anchor – cogs.

    Aside from those who cherish our history – and the great sacrifices of our fellow men few are aware of this travesty in Gettysburg. Who would tell them? Not the corporate media / we’ve got Michael Jackson tickets to worry about – and the next evil madman to worry about. News is kept localized – think about it.

    Few know of towns (mid west) emptied of jobs with Maytag gone to China – Whirlpool to Mexico – or hey, Hersey Town (Pa.) USA now in Mexico. Few are aware of 50 towns marked for massive bulldozing of empty homes – shuttered factories.

    Who discusses the 500 (Google Mountain Top Mining) and growing daily / mountains (West Virginia) leveled by machines as big as a small building/ filling valleys – streams with toxic sludge? Who speaks of the numerous TENT cities from Seattle to Hawaii/ Florida/California filled with the unemployed in (ha) this ‘jobless recovery’. Doncha just love this revived Orwellian jabberwocky. The point being/ we are being erased.

    A people who do not know from where they came also do not know where they are going. It is happening today though the rewriting and/or reinterpretation of American historical records; in our national parks, monuments, memorial, landmarks, shrines etc. This is most glaring in Philadelphia where even stained glass windows referencing our founding fathers are being removed.

    Read Rewriting of American History by Catherine Millard to see how far along this destruction has come. You also want to Google Global Landgrab, Judith Moriarty to learn how local governance has incrementally been replaced with ‘regional’ (under Nixon) with unelected officials (consultants – Non Profits – Economic Developers) are usurping selectboards – city councils. Why care? I have walked the fields of Gettysburg (after the tourists left) in the early evenings.

    I have stood where Joshua Chamberlain shouted, ‘Fix Bayonets’. I’ve walked the back roads of the park watching the deer dancing in the leafy shadows.(before the park rangers started killing them and cutting down the Witness Trees. You can hear the cries of the fallen from the blood soaked fields.

    You are removed to a place of the sacred, as you walk this ‘holy ground’. Developers, political shills are devoid of any such discernment awash in greed that they are. Evil has no part of such sacrifice. Joshua Chamberlain said” In great deeds, something abides. On great fields something stays. Forms change and pass. Bodies disappear but Spirits linger to consecrate ground for the vision.

    And reverent men/women from afar, and generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field , to ponder and dream: lo! The shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls.”

    And so it was, one foggy night on a sultry July evening, I stood amongst the statues on Cemetery Ridge, and for a brief few ‘seconds’, as I stood there in the midst of battle – gray shadowed horses and their riders pounded around me – the noise was deafening, as were the cries.

    Then all was silent amidst the stone men astride their mounts. It seemed important to call others to remember – remember the vision. It is simply sickening to me to think that crass – cheap – revolting commercial sprawl/ done by the FEW – are robbing us all. Who will remember? jdthmoriarty@yahoo.com

  15. John McConnell
    Tue 06th Oct 2009 at 1:57 pm

    If the hosting of reenactments is not allowed because the NPS thinks it’s “not a proper way to commemorate or protect” battlefields, what does this new visitor’s center do that DOES perform such a function?

    If money were the only object, they could host a reenactment and charge $8/head which people would gladly pay, unlike the PC junk they try to force on us in these type of “museums”.

  16. Kevin B.
    Fri 13th Aug 2010 at 2:02 am

    I can’t believe how offended I was by this “New Visitor Center”, and I don’t get offended that easily or that much. I remember when I was a kid with my parents at the Old visitor center, looking at an old gnarled shell sabot or Canister shot or a bent Ramrod that some farmer found in a freshly plowed field and then saved a 100 years ago, and I was so incredibly moved by that. Knowing that in some terrifying and desperate moment, one of these unknown soldiers from our past was holding this thing in his hands and actually experiencing and hearing this horrific battle going on around him during this pivotal moment in our history. It made me feel closer to it and sparked my imagination. It’s not a museum AT ALL, it’s just another bland, Politically Correct, Revenue generating machine. It reminds me of a rest stop on any major highway in the US, only not quite as interesting. Whatever geniuses handled this project should be fired immediately, Although they’ve probably already been promoted to their next project of redesigning Washington DC…. Fortunately the Power and meaning of the Battlefield itself can never be diminished, So I’ll just take my 2 sons out there myself and try to spark their imaginations with what I know, Unfortunately there’s No need to stop at the “New Visitor Center and Multiplex Cinema” anymore. Very sad

  17. Dale & Tricia P.
    Fri 27th Aug 2010 at 8:25 am

    We agree with Pete Jogensen’s assessment of the new Gettysburg VC. The new visitor is NOT one to be compared to the old Gettysburg museum (vc) in any way. It is a sham. My husband and I visited the new one when it opened and we were there this past spring. We were so disappointed. I woudn’t call this a museum because most of the items displayed at the old one are not at the new one. We felt as though we were walking through a tomb. As the previous blogger said, we too are offended. We have visited Gettysburg twice a year for thirty years, but since the old VC is no longer there, we will not visit as much as we have in the past. What a sad ending to what was once the best educative museums in Gettysburg. Our family have so many great memories of the old visitor center. But I guess we will have to rely on those memories, because the new visitor center is a disappointment and failure. We have been robbed!

  18. Phil R
    Tue 31st Aug 2010 at 1:36 pm

    A few things to keep in mind:

    If Americans are going to visit one Civil War battlefield in their lifetime, by reason of proximity alone Gettysburg is likely to be that battlefield. Like it or not, Gettysburg is the most appropriate NPS venue for interpreting the Civil War as a whole, not just the battle that defined it. I have no trouble understanding why the new Visitors Center looks like it looks and does what it does. Traditional museums have been reaching fewer and fewer patrons over the past thirty years. Society changes, as do its priorities; museums and interpretive styles change to reflect the shifting demographics of their patrons, or cease to be relevant. Deal with it. The average visitor to Gettysburg in 2010 has less base knowledge of the Civil War than did the average visitor who grew up in the centennial era; in fact, the average visitor is much less likely to be an American.

    Artifacts have unequaled power to invoke a particular time and place, but they’re useless to future generations if they haven’t been preserved. I have a little experience with this; trust me, curators operate on a bit longer timeline than most historians and history buffs. Not displaying the entire Rosensteel collection is anything but a disaster. Americans will able to visit Gettysburg in 2863 for the battle’s millennial observances and see the Rosensteel artifacts because of the NPS conservation measures recently initiated. Let’s remember, too, that interpretive plans and styles change relatively frequently, at least once every couple of generations. Let’s give the next fifty generations the broadest array of options possible to interpret and understand the significance of this great American place.

  19. greg gober
    Mon 12th Dec 2011 at 10:54 pm

    I will not pay any money for the museum. Unless it has changed, Manasas and Antietam National Parks have a donation box at your discretion which I always happily drop a few bucks into. Gettysburg park is more involved in demolition of non historical wood lots and buildings. That is ok but how better would the experience be if the Bliss farm or the Forney farm buildings would be rebuilt or at least noted or outlined which formed some of the 1863 landscape. In other parks such as Chickamauga there are at least simple wood structures (log cabins) in the place of the old removed original buildings. Take the lumber from the removed wood lots and use that to rebuild structures that were once there and then you will get your 1863 interpretive landscape.

  20. Wed 08th Aug 2012 at 1:07 am

    I found this thread because I was researching the Rosensteel collection online. I live in AZ. I visit the Gettysburg battlefield every summer with my two sons. I buy pop guns at the visitor’s center and we head straight to Devil’s Den. At dusk we go to the Pennsylvania Memorial and climb the steps to look over the battlefield. We have been to the battlefield at least 15 times in two years and plan many more trips. Even without reading this thread, as a school librarian, I could tell that the visitor center was not a good value or a good use of our time after we bought the pop guns and used the restroom. The $8.00 for the movie was prohibitively expensive for our family of 3, we spent that same amount at Friendly’s after a happy day of running outside. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to the Park Historians (Scott Hartwig) and highly value their services. I agree with those in the thread that say that if we don’t learn our history we will lose it. I know I’m doing my part to help my boys fall in love with history and running around the battlefield with them with popguns at dusk is the best way I know how. I hope to see some Rosensteel collection come out of storage. I hope to see more of what makes Gettysburg special at the visitor’s center.

  21. atticud
    Sat 22nd Sep 2012 at 5:41 pm

    Just visited the “new” Gettysburg visitors center.
    I am sick to see what it has become.
    Where there was once a beautiful museum free to the public (donation accepted, and freely given), there is now a lot less on display for a ” nominal” charge.
    Where there was once a sweet book store, well stocked and manned by folks who knew the subject intimately, there is now a “Disney North” gift shop selling everything from souvenir shot glasses to $8.00 fudge.
    I for one am sorely disappointed and saddened.
    And I will NOT give them my business again.

  22. Mon 25th Nov 2013 at 5:15 am

    I wonder if it is possible to replace the management at the new VC with Civil War buffs/historians who would display the relics as we had been promised,Is there a way of doing this?I for one sorely miss the old Visitor`s Center-it was always the highlight of my trip there.Anyone who was a student of CW rifles,revolvers,swords,etc., really appreciated what was in the old VC.

  23. k barford
    Sun 11th May 2014 at 3:11 pm

    just returned from Gettysburg 5/3/14; was very disappointed in the new Visitor Center. For such a large building and a pricey one at that, there was not much for information on the battle. If you blinked your eye you would have missed the park service information desk, but not the huge gift shop! I would have liked to have seen the cyclorama, but we spent most of our time walking the battlefield. For anyone going, I would suggest to find good books on the battle, find a good tour guide, and spend your time on the battlefield. The visitor center/museum at Antietam was much more informative and is how the Park Service should be spending tax monies.

  24. Tony Shaeffer
    Thu 29th May 2014 at 9:19 pm

    Display the Rosensteel collection. The new visitors center sucks.The movie is stupid.I use to work at the National Tower.But NPS illegally took the Tower,which finally killed Tom Ottenstein one month to the very day that you imploded the only view of the battlefield. Boycott the Park Service!!!!!

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