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RebelBugler
08-16-2008, 08:47 AM
Having recently visited the new Gettysburg Museum and Visitors Center, I was extremely disappointed by what I found there. The initial hype surrounding this multi-million dollar undertaking suggested an even better opportunity to educate the general public on the war and this pivotal battle. The additional space would hopefully allow the display of even more artifacts than the space constraints of the former facility permitted.

While the new facility has a certain Disneyesque quality about it, with high tech visual and interactive displays and a souvenir store that would rival anything Disneyland has, the story of the battle and the war seems to get mired down with political correctness and an all-encompassing obsession with slavery. The theme quickly segues from slavery to Jim Crow and ultimately we see film clips of Dr. Martin Luther King's efforts for civil rights. It would seem such themes would be more suited to a museum dedicated to the Civil Rights movement and not important battles of the War Between the States.

Unfortunately, instead of more artifacts there were fewer artifacts. A number of artifacts were misidentified. In my view, there is no excuse for such carelessness at such a nationally, perhaps internationally, recognized facility.

The Civil War News has recently published several articles on the new Visitors Center which may be of interest.

http://www.civilwarnews.com/opinions.cfm

In particular, Pete Jorgenson's review Paging Thru of July 2008 is quite good as well as the enlightening response of Superintendent John Latscher who states in part:

"In summary, if you already know everything there is to know about Gettysburg or the Civil War era, you may not find much to attract your interest in the new museum".

"But if you are interested in a story-line museum that weaves together the military, social, economic, and political aspects of the Gettysburg Campaign, and how that pivotal campaign of a pivotal war affected the development of our nation, then I surely invite you to come and visit us. Then, you can invest in some of your own ink, and let us know what you think".

I fully intend to invest some ink to tell Superintendent Latscher what I think and hope others do as well!

Frenchie
08-16-2008, 09:56 AM
"They show you only what they think you should see. They tell you what they want you to think." -- C. Peter Jørgensen

Sounds like most of today's major news media. No wonder the newspapers love it.

Brian Wolle
08-16-2008, 10:12 AM
Good to see you back, Monsieur.

You forgot to mention the bookstore has about 1/4 the books the old one did.

Frenchie
08-16-2008, 10:22 AM
Good to see you back, Monsieur.

Yes, of course it is. ;) How've you been, old bean?


You forgot to mention the bookstore has about 1/4 the books the old one did.

You must be talking to my fellow Baltimoron Terry. I haven't been to the "museum" yet. Must drop in there soon. I worked the bookstore at Manassas NBP for a while. Books don't have much of a profit margin and are heavy and bulky. Much easier and more remunerative to sell bright, shiny, educationally worthless tschotskies to the tourists.

thpritchett
08-16-2008, 12:45 PM
"But if you are interested in a story-line museum that weaves together the military, social, economic, and political aspects of the Gettysburg Campaign, and how that pivotal campaign of a pivotal war affected the development of our nation, then I surely invite you to come and visit us.

Considering the lack of general knowledge of history in the younger generation as shown by tests given to students entering college, I am wondering whether or not that is the better approach for the visitor center to take rather than catering to the those of us who are more knowledgeable of the overall campaign and are looking to look at the artifacts to sharpen the edge of our expertise.

Curt-Heinrich Schmidt
08-16-2008, 01:13 PM
Hallo!

While I have my own personal biases and needs/wants... :) :)

IMHO, yes.

However, if someone (an Outsider, if you will) wants the "Civil War Experience," perhaps...

The "National Civil War Museum" in Harrisburg, PA is the better choice for a generic overview of the Civil War- while a "Gettysburg Visitors' Center" should be more focused on, well, "Gettysburg."

The other 4/5th's of the discussion is the changing face of modern museum display theory and the "passing" of the artifact-based/artifact-rich displays in favor of the integrated, coordinated, and multi-media (short attention span) stations brought about by a new generation of Dumbed Down Americans and 15 or 30 second "sound bytes" on TV and video game action.

Oppsadaisy, my personal bias is showing... :)

(The Center claims 1/6th of the previous displayed artifacts are "displayed.")

Others' mileage will vary...

CHS
One Man's Meat Is Another Man's Poison Mess

Pennreb
08-16-2008, 01:18 PM
I for one, am not impressed either. Not even from a looking outside of the box approach. It is way too busy for one to focus on the artifacts. Your senses are overwhelmed with way too many graphics. Way too much was devoted to the slavery issue. Don't get me wrong, it's great for someone that has a little curiosity about history, and has never been to any other museums. But I think I will pass on making it my sole reason for trekking to the battlefield.
Jackson's stretcher was a good observation point though. Is that on loan from another museum or was it in archives??

huntdaw
08-16-2008, 01:31 PM
The NPS has made a decision I believe, to emphasize the aspects of slavery in all of their Civil War interpretations so your description of the Gettysburg center doesn't surprise me.

While that is all well and good and is part of the overall story, the average visitor does not know everything there is to know about Gettysburg and needs to be taught what happened there and what the significance of it was.

GrumpyDave
08-16-2008, 05:56 PM
Nobody mentioned the fact they charge $8 per adult to watch the new 15 minute movie on the battle (that's like paying $64 to watch a feature film, or $96 to watch Lord of the Rings). I wonder how much it'll cost to look at the Cyclorama painting? Oh, and there's a booth where you can have your photo taken and digitally placed in one of several CW period photos. The food prices are theme park-esque. All they need now is a merry-go-round, roller coaster and a Ferris wheel. Oh, maybe a casino would help out. After all, it's about the money, right? :mad:

Jim Mayo
08-16-2008, 08:13 PM
Having visited lately I can say the only way I will go to the visitor center again is if I have to go to the rest rooms. They are very nice and remind me of what I think of the rest of the visitor center.

Anybody buy one of the $99.00 kepis they have in the book store?

They should have kept Eastern National as managers of the book store instead of whoever they have now.

Dignann
08-17-2008, 08:19 AM
Personally, I like it. Fifteen years working on Civil War battlefields, I've learned a little bit about the average visitor and I feel that the new museum does a very good job of catering to them. Putting the battle in the context of the war, in other words why was it important and how did it affect the outcome of the war, is something the old museum did not do very well, if at all. The new facility, in my opinion, has done a good job focusing on that and making it relevant to the visitor.

I suspect for many of us, we have such fond memories of our first, or earliest, visits to the old museum. The exhibits never changed and we became familiar with them, knowing what exactly was where and how to find them. Walking into that old building probably brought many of those memories back. If that's the case, I suspect that the new museum never stood a chance with some of us.

Eric

Elaine Kessinger
08-17-2008, 11:27 AM
I recently went to the visitor's center, and hated it. The slant of the film blurbs that open and close the exibit made me ill, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. I could not view the exibits because they were too crowded with folks watching the blurbs about the battles. What can we do? If we complain about the film blurbs we're being racist and trying to deny the black experience, if we complain about not being able to view the exibits we're being sour about their "popularity", and if we point out how they can improve, we're not coming to terms with the modern ADD world. Again, what can we do?

RebelBugler
08-17-2008, 11:39 AM
I recently went to the visitor's center, and hated it. The slant of the film blurbs that open and close the exibit made me ill, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. I could not view the exibits because they were too crowded with folks watching the blurbs about the battles. What can we do? If we complain about the film blurbs we're being racist and trying to deny the black experience, if we complain about not being able to view the exibits we're being sour about their "popularity", and if we point out how they can improve, we're not coming to terms with the modern ADD world. Again, what can we do?

Sometimes you just have to tell it like it is and let the chips fall where they may. The new Gettysburg Visitors Center is a beautiful facility with amateurish exhibits designed to appeal to today's society. Apparently, the NPS believes that the best approach is dumbing down our history to the lowest common denominator. I seem to recall members of Congress mandating the direction the NPS would take in its historical portrayals. It seems once again we can thank Congress for their leadership....NOT!

Bitter_Bierce
08-17-2008, 06:55 PM
I hate museums. Old or new, they are all boring. Leave them to the general public for whom they were built.

Besides, Civil War buffs should not be mooning about in a museum in the first place. Get out on the battlefield into the sunlight and read the monuments. Let the field tell the story the way the veterans wanted it told.

Spare_Man
08-17-2008, 07:11 PM
... Apparently, the NPS believes that the best approach is dumbing down our history to the lowest common denominator. The SCV does the same thing. They dumb down everything to the same old litany: it wasn't about slavery, it was about states rights. Heritage not hate. Blah, blah, blah. Talk about the lowest common denominator. Sheesh!

RebelBugler
08-17-2008, 08:56 PM
The SCV does the same thing. They dumb down everything to the same old litany: it wasn't about slavery, it was about states rights. Heritage not hate. Blah, blah, blah. Talk about the lowest common denominator. Sheesh!

While I completely disagree with the above referenced statement, and do not agree that the SCV dumb downs everything with the same old "litany", the National Park Service is supposed to get it right. Furthermore, the National Park Service is publicly funded with tax dollars, while the SCV relies on voluntary contributions to promulgate its message. The comparisons are not at all similar.

Frenchie
08-17-2008, 09:27 PM
While I completely disagree with the above referenced statement, and do not agree that the SCV dumb downs everything with the same old "litany", the National Park Service is supposed to get it right.

So the NPS doesn't get it right because it doesn't tell the story the way the SCV does? And the SCV isn't required to get it right? Is that what you mean?

As far as the SCV not dumbing down everything with the same old litany, it sure seems like we keep seeing the same old thing over and over here.

RebelBugler
08-18-2008, 06:40 PM
So the NPS doesn't get it right because it doesn't tell the story the way the SCV does? And the SCV isn't required to get it right? Is that what you mean?

As far as the SCV not dumbing down everything with the same old litany, it sure seems like we keep seeing the same old thing over and over here.

I'm not even talking about how to interpret the story......I don't think the NPS even came close on defining the subject. If you chose to support the NPS and its interpretation, I'm ok with you having a different opinion. It would be helpful, however, if you at least took the opportunity to visit there before digressing into a rant about the SCV and how it interprets history.

Frenchie
08-18-2008, 08:45 PM
I'm not even talking about how to interpret the story......I don't think the NPS even came close on defining the subject. If you chose to support the NPS and its interpretation, I'm OK with you having a different opinion. It would be helpful, however, if you at least took the opportunity to visit there before digressing into a rant about the SCV and how it interprets history.

I don't support the NPS interpretation nor do I dislike it, because I haven't seen it. I have seen the SCV version of history. Do me a favor and tell me what the **** not seeing the museum has to do with my opinion of the SCV version of history?

Jim Mayo
08-18-2008, 08:45 PM
Sounds like several of the children have a "case of the Mondays" toward the SCV. I thought this thread was about the GB Visitor Center. If someone has an ax to grind with the SCV why not start a new thread so the rest of us can skip over it.