Nearly two million visitors visitors come every year to explore the Gettysburg National Military Park to learn about both the Civil War and the infamous 1863 Battle of Gettysburg. But two million visitors is a lot, and in order to better accommodate them, new facilities had to be built; in order to expand educational opportunities to visitors and to highlight the historical importance of the site, the Gettysburg Foundation and the National Park Service therefore pooled together $103 million and constructed a new visitor center.
Although it opened in April 2008, the new Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center kicks off its official grand opening celebration tomorrow, Friday September 26. The new visitor center has an extensive collection of artifacts and archives. And like any good visitor center, there are plenty of interactive displays, complete with a voice theater for readings from battle participants — well, people acting to be them.
The grand opening also marks the debut of the Gettysburg Cyclorama painting. A colossal circular oil painting, the Cyclorama is the only one of its kind in North America. The painting has been undergoing a $15 million restoration effort for the last five years; that’s certainly one expensive face lift worth seeing.
The grand opening is set to start at 11 a.m, and even Governor Edward G. Rendell will be making an appearance. You can find a full schedule of events here.
As mentioned in a previous post, the Electric Map has been traded for a movie, A New Birth of Freedom. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, it outlines the importance of the Battle at Gettysburg and pertinent details about the Civil War. The rest of the museum is made up of galleries with different themes.
The Voices of the Campaign Theater in Gallery 5 seems like a section not to miss. This is where you can hear audio versions of letters, diaries and newspaper articles from the time period. Artifacts of note in this gallery are Robert E. Lee’s stove and other items of an officer’s field camp. The display is made to look like what a field camp would actually look like. The field desk that Lee might have used at Gettysburg is also here.
The 11 other galleries are as detailed, and each have a theme inspired by Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. For those of you watching your dollars this summer, a stop here has a price that’s right. The museum is free. The movie costs $8 for adults and $6.50 for children. If you can swing it, spring for the movie because I imagine it will help highlight the sites that you’ll see when you tour the actual battleground. Plus, Morgan Freeman has such a lovely voice.
From June 29 until July 6 is Heritage Days which commemorates Gettysburg’s history. This year the museum is playing host. Here’s a link to the schedule of events.
I had high hopes someone would rescue the “Electric Map” at Gettysburg, but I haven’t seen anything new about it since the plug was pulled on the attraction in April. (See article) Here’s a link to “Save the Map,” a movement started to, well, save the map, but it doesn’t say the map was saved.
I suppose the film A New Birth of Freedom narrated by Morgan Freeman is a fine way to let visitors know about the Civil War and the battle at Gettysburg, but I’ll miss the map when I go to here the next time.
That map, though, was funky and I think worth saving if nothing else for its nostalgic value and history. It was first displayed in the 1939. Perhaps another organization will acquire it. I hope so.
I went to Gettysburg when I was in the 5th grade. The electric map is about the only thing I remember. For a map experience via YouTube video, keep reading.
If you’re a person who likes details and is a visual learner, it seems to me this is a simple way to learn a lot of information and be able to see how a battle is organized.