Last Time I Checked Amazon Has All the Gettysburg Books You Could Possibly Want to Read

I am looking forward to visiting Gettysburg this summer to join some friends for a battlefield tour.  All of us are interested in seeing what the NPS has done with the exhibits in the new visitors center.  I’ve read a number of posts from fellow bloggers who are concerned about the book selection in the gift shop.  Apparently, the gift shop is catering to the average visitor who has little need to wade through 20 titles on the fighting at the Wheatfield.   I sort of understand the disappointment of the veteran Gettysburg dudes who want the visitors center to be both a popular tourist destination and a place where the most obscure studies are made available, but we shouldn’t make too much of this. 

My advice is for the NPS to offer whatever the hell sells and generates money.  If that means Newt Ginghrich’s alternative history of the battle and Jennie Wade dolls than so be it.  The NPS can easily satisfy its mission of educating the public without having to stock its shelves with titles that appeal to a select few.  The NPS ought to include some titles that reflect the contours of the campaign and the broader issues of the war – mission accomplished.

4 comments… add one
  • matthew mckeon Apr 29, 2008 @ 21:24

    It just struck me:
    There’s the fireman, the Zouave, and a American Indian(for the Tammany Regt.): We almost have the Village People in bronze!

  • matthew mckeon Apr 29, 2008 @ 21:22

    Just got back from Gettysburg.

    The new VC seems quite deluxe. A short movie with Morgan Freeman aka voice of God, narrating. Cafeteria, museum, big giftshop. Some pretty tacky stuff, and I was able to score a grotesque tee shirt, but also some good books. I wonder if the VC will act like a Walmart,since I never got to the tacky souvenir shops downtown.

    By the way, the tree cutting is excellent. It’s like a curtain has been raised and the contours of the battlefield have been revealed.

    There is a wonderful statue out in the Wheatfield, showing two men holding hands, a fireman and a soldier, honoring the Fire Zouaves of New York. The family giggled at the gayness, but of course it wasn’t celebrating alternative lifestyles in the Union Army. It seems so gentle in a field of marble bullets, cannons, and bronze or granite infantrymen, running, clubbing, shooting.

    I must say the Louisiana state monument was totally gay, screaming, “I’m a fabulous soldier from the Big Easy!”

  • Jenny Apr 29, 2008 @ 19:22

    I probably would qualify as a “Gettysburg dude” if I was a dude. I visit for one real purpose and that’s to see the battlefield and the monuments. I don’t go there to visit a museum or buy books. The old VC existed for one reason as far as I was concerned — restrooms. What can I say, I’m a no frills visitor.

    I did like the old bookstore though. It didn’t have the “tourist trap” feel that many shops in Gettysburg have. In part I think it felt that way to me because they had so many obscure titles that you knew you would never see for sale anywhere else (except another NPS store). Gave it a more “serious” feel.

    But as long as the new restrooms are functional and they follow through on knocking down the old building and rehabbing Ziegler’s Grove, I’m happy. The old VC restrooms were pretty atrocious, especially the no hot water in winter.

  • Erik Apr 29, 2008 @ 18:55

    I definitely agree with your sentiments. NPS needs all the money it can get.

    However, and it is only one site, but in the one park I worked in, it should be said that the books chosen were quite haphazard and the process was under control of one ranger who had lots of other duties as well. It could have been done much, much better.

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