It’s easy to be seduced by the latest use of technology in our museums and other historic sites to get across the Civil War experience and the human cost. They are powerful tools and can be incredibly effective, but once in a while, we are reminded that the simplest approach works best. Such is the case at Andersonville National Historic Site, where they are keeping track on a daily basis the number of new prisoners admitted as well as the latest deaths and burials. It’s incredibly powerful.
I am not sure where this is situated in the visitor center, but I hope it is one of the first things that people see when they enter. It is often difficult for people to wrap their heads around large numbers, but this little display makes it easy to identify recent losses in the context of the life of the prison. If I was visiting I would immediately inquire into the names of the men who died on this day 150 years ago. How did they arrive at the prison? Where were they from? Those men would serve as my guides through the site.
I’ve never been to Andersonville, but I hope to visit one day. I applaud the NPS staff. This is a challenging commemoration, but from what I can tell they’ve got the right people on board.