Word came today that the National Park Service will begin demolition of the old Cyclorama building at Gettysburg. It was just a matter of time. I never had a real problem with it being there, though I admit it was sort of an eyesore. I also have no problem with removing it for that reason, but what I have little patience for is that in doing so we are returning the battlefield to its 1863 appearance. That is little more than a comforting fiction. If that were the case we would remove all the monuments as well.
I’ve always had trouble explaining to my wife this nation’s fascination with the Civil War. I am hoping this will help.
Update: The above image of the proposed trails was made available by John Spangler of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg.
Here is a story that should concern all of you about the integrity of the Gettysburg battlefield. The Lutheran Seminary had embarked upon the construction of a historic trail that looks to threaten some of the most important ground from the fighting on July 1, 1863. Behind the scenes some preservation groups have expressed reservations, but this story needs to go public and the Civil War community needs to make the Seminary folks aware that their plans for the future are intrusive and a threat to the historic resource that they are committed to protect. The Seminary Ridge Historic Preservation Foundation held a public information session a few days ago only after the project had commenced and damage had been done to the landscape. From what I am hearing the panel was unable to address how they reconciled the destruction of the land with their preservation mission. Their plans also include the construction of trails on the western face of Seminary Ridge. The Lutheran Seminary cannot simply fall back on the position that this is private property since this project has been partly funded by federal funds.
I don’t know all the details, but at the least the SRHPF should be able to answer questions from those people worried about preservation about how this project will impact the physical landscape of the battlefield. Below are a few pictures that were sent to me that show some of the construction (or destruction) that has already taken place. Let’s get the word out.
I am very excited to share what promises to be one of the most educational and entertaining conferences to come down the pike in quite some time. From March 14-16, 2013 the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College will host a three-day conference titled, “The Future of Civil War History: Looking Beyond the 150th.” Peter Carmichael somehow managed to wrangle up roughly 100 historians of all stripes for a wide variety of formal presentations, panels, working groups and field experiences. The goal is to “facilitate discussions between panelists and the audience about how the historical community can make the Civil War past more engaging, more accessible, and more usable to public audiences as we look beyond the 150th commemorations and to the future of Civil War history.”
Please take some time to browse through the conference website. There are plenty of opportunities to get involved, including a number of very interesting working groups that will commence in preparation for the conference. I strongly encourage those of you who teach history, work in some capacity in public history or are just deeply interested in the Civil War era to register soon since spaces are limited.
I am super excited for this event. It’s a chance to spend time in one of my favorite places and best of all I get to participate. I am a panelist for a session on how to engage museum audiences and students around issues of Civil War memory and I will be chairing another session on interpreting USCTs at Civil War sites.
See you in Gettysburg.
It’s a good question and one that I’ve touched on here at Civil War Memory. Our battlefield monuments fit into a broader celebratory landscape that is pervasive throughout our memory of the Civil War. Gettysburg is a place where we can feel good about ourselves as Americans and our history. It is almost impossible for me to imagine a monument such as the one at Verdun at Gettysburg and I believe it to be a barrier to fully understanding what our civil war was about.
Unfortunately, the following image, which I took during a visit to the Gettysburg Visitor Center, more accurately reflects our attitude toward how Americans chose to make war on one another.