Our friend Paul R. Taylor has a really interesting post on his blog setting forth his opinion on what should and should not be included in museum exhibits at Civil War battlefields. Paul’s post sums up my position on this issue perfectly, and I commend it to you.
While I understand the role of slavery in causing the war, I agree with Paul that most folks visit specific battlefields to learn about the events that occurred there. Consequently, I agree that the issue of the causes of the war and of slavery is best left to general Civil War museums and that these issues really have no place on specific battlefields.
Much of this controversy has been brought to the forefront by the ongoing debate about the merits of the new visitor center at the Gettysburg National Military Park. I don’t care for it, for a lot of reasons, some of which have already been elaborated here. I found the museum exhibits especially offputting. One thing that bothered me was the layout and traffic pattern of the museum exhibits; my friend and co-author Mike Nugent quite correctly likened it to herding cattle toward the slaughterhouse when we visited it back in June. I also don’t like the fact that so few of the artifacts from the Rosensteel Collection are on exhibit, and I really don’t like the idea of charging people to see the museum, particularly when the National Park Service sold this boondoggle to the public based on the representation that there would be no charge to see the museum exhibits, just as there was no charge to see the artifacts at the old visitor center.
I know that Kevin Levin has a very different perspective on this issue, and I respect both Kevin and his perspective. However, I respectfully disagree with him on this issue, just as I respectfully disagree with the original legislative mandate that forced the National Park Service to include this material in its interpretation of Civil War battlefields. Instead, I believe that places like the excellent new museum at the Tredegar Works in Richmond, or the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania are really the appropriate places to do this sort of interpretation, as they cover the ENTIRE war and not just a specific battle.
I offer this as food for thought on a controversial but lingering subject.Scridb filter