So, I’ve been reading about the plans of the National Park Service at Gettysburg to shut the lights out permanently on the electronic battlefield map that has been used since 1973 to introduce visitors to the broad contours of the battle. Since I only visited Gettysburg for the first time in the mid-1990s I am not holding onto any sentimental feelings that go back to family vacations. I do understand and appreciate those people that are holding onto such memories and I especially appreciate the desire on the part of the exhibit designer’s family to see it preserved. I agree that it is an effective teaching tool, but that can easily be accomplished, and can no doubt be done more effectively, with today’s technology. What I don’t understand is why people are so surprised by this decision. Did anyone really believe that room would be made for this exhibit in a brand new visitor center? More to the point, given the limited budget that the NPS works with and the ways in which available funds could be applied it would seem to me to be irresponsible to save it. Does anyone have a figure on how much it will cost to store it properly beyond plans to cut it up into small pieces and store it in a barn?
The website created to pressure the NPS doesn’t offer any suggestions whatsoever and instead takes a personal shot at Superintendent, John Latschar. Actually, he’s right on the money, “It’s 100% antiquated.” He went on to say in a recent interview that, “From an architectural standpoint, it takes up an immense amount of space and we have consistent problems with school kids falling asleep.” Let’s get real, this is not a “national icon” but an exhibit whose time has come and gone. I do think, however, that there is a great deal of significance that can be attached to the exhibit in terms of the history of how the battle has been interpreted and remembered by the NPS.
Click here for an overview of the new visitor center.