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firstmdes
03-24-2008, 12:26 PM
Interesting story in the Baltimore Sun (moderators, please move to a better place if this it not close enough to preservation):

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/nation/bal-te.map24mar24,0,3712506.story


At battlefield, family history also at stake
Gettysburg map creator's kin fight plans to scrap it
By Julie Scharper

Sun reporter

March 24, 2008

GETTYSBURG

Two days after the last shots of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War were fired here, a 16-year-old neighborhood boy named John H. Rosensteel walked onto the battlefield to help bury the dead.

There he found the body of a Confederate soldier, a boy about his own age, and picked up a rifle lying near him. The rifle was the first item in what would become the largest private collection of Gettysburg relics, as well as a family legacy.

Since that day in July 1863, Rosensteel's descendants have acquired and preserved tens of thousands of battle artifacts and shared them with the public. One family member built a museum along the Union battle line in 1921 to house them. Another created the building's famous electric map, which has educated generations of visitors about the Gettysburg battle by using colored lights to depict troop movements.

Now the museum - which the family sold to the National Park Service decades ago - is about to be razed. A new $103 million museum and visitor's center will open nearly a mile away on the edge of the Union battle lines next month. The old site will be restored to the way it looked in 1863 - a quiet spot amid rolling fields.

While the thousands of Rosensteel artifacts will provide the historical core of the exhibits at the new center, the electric map might be headed for the scrap heap - a blow to family members and some loyal Gettysburg visitors.

Kathi Schue, president of the Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association, says she first saw the map when she was in fifth grade and later returned there with her own child.

"The electric map is a national treasure," she says. "Do you know how many thousands of school kids have seen that map in the past 40 years? The things that they will be most likely to take away from their experience are the monuments and the map."

John Latschar, superintendent of the Gettysburg National Military Park, agrees that the map is "an icon of its age," but adds that it is "one hundred percent antiquated."

"From an architectural standpoint, it takes up an immense amount of space and we have consistent problems with school kids falling asleep," he said.

The new museum and visitor center, which will include two movie theaters, 12 galleries, a museum shop and "refreshment saloon," will explain the battle through exhibits designed to appeal to youth accustomed to the Internet and video games, Latschar says.

"The electric map concept, which is to orient people to the movement of troops on the battlefield, will be done much better in the new museum," he says.

Emily Rosensteel O'Neil, the great-niece of the boy who collected that first rifle, doesn't object to demolition of the old museum, but she is fighting to preserve the map, which her father, Joseph Rosensteel, completed in 1963, about a year before he died of cancer. Park officials plan to cut the map -- a sloped cement slab about the size of a backyard swimming pool -- into pieces, wrap it in plastic and store it in a barn with no definite plans to display it again.

O'Neil argues that the map remains a valuable educational tool.

"It is just an incredible way to visualize those three days" of the battle, she says. "The actual intent that my father had remains viable and extremely important to so many people."

For years, the Rosensteels made their home in part of the museum building, and as a little girl, O'Neil slept above rooms that held cannon balls as big as grapefruits, tattered uniforms and bibles found in the pockets of dead soldiers. She and her siblings roamed the battlefields, ducking behind monuments for games of hide-and-seek and startling flocks of vultures.

She was in charge of keeping her younger siblings quiet while her father lectured to museum guests. All the children learned his words by heart - particularly the text that accompanied the electric map, which one brother liked to recite at the dinner table.

"As a child, I grew up knowing that the most important thing in our family was the museum," says O'Neil, 66, a retired schoolteacher from Guilford, Conn. "Our family life revolved around it. This is our history."

The family sold the map, the museum and the land on which it sits to the National Park Service for $2.6 million in 1972. They donated the trove of artifacts -- which by then numbered more than 38,000.

O'Neil says that few improvements have been made to the museum since her family sold it and much has been allowed to deteriorate. Outside the brick building, birds have built a nest in the final letter "r" in "Visitor's Center.

Inside, black spots of chewing gum dot the dingy carpet, foam rubber pokes from ripped bench cushions and dim lighting makes it difficult to view the exhibits.

The map room itself appears frozen in time. After paying $4 admission, visitors settle into slate gray folding chairs overlooking the concrete relief map. A portrait of O'Neil's father, captioned "Originator of the Map," hangs under the podium where he used to lecture. A spotlight hung above the painting has burned out.

As the overhead lights dim, a sonorous male voice announces "You are located in the center of one of the most famous battlefields in the world." Orange and blue lights flicker on and off, representing the movements of Union and Confederate troops.

For decades after Rosensteel's death, a recording of his voice accompanied the presentation, but it was replaced in the 1980s. Most of the script still follows his wording, though, and O'Neil, sitting beside her husband Tom in the darkened auditorium, recites passages along with the narrator.

Rosensteel made an early version of the map in 1939, when he was 25, but wanted to create a bigger and better one for the battle's centennial. O'Neil recalls seeing her father crouched on his hands and knees, plotting dimensions on the map. He labored over recording the voiceover, she says, because he had already been weakened by the cancer that would claim his life.

Visitors to the historic Gettysburg site, which includes acres of bucolic fields, hundreds of monuments, the visitor center and a circular painting of the battle known as the Cyclorama, have varied opinions on the map.

Nathan Dapper, an American history teacher from Prior Lake, Minn. brought 45 of his students from Twin Lakes Middle School to see the map.

"It does a really good job of giving the kids an overall view of a huge battlefield. When they go out to the battlefield they have a point of reference," he says. "If you have some historical context, it's not a field, it's sacred ground."

Visitors J.D. Rymoff Jr. of Lebanon City, Pa. and Leslie Palmer, of Dover, Ohio, say that the map helped them understand the military strategy behind the battle. "It puts it in perspective," Rymoff says.

But other visitors to the battlefield said they skipped the map because it seems outdated.

Bente Dalsgaard of Denmark toured the battlefield with her husband and school age son on a misty afternoon. "Our son had already downloaded a video game of Gettysburg before we left Denmark. So you visualize it in a different way," she said.

Jim Campi, a spokesman for the Civil War Preservation Trust praises plans for the new museum and visitor center, which he calls "one of the most exciting Civil War projects on the books right now," but says that he hopes a new home can be found for the map.

Campi, who recalls seeing the map for the first time when he was a teenager suggests that the map could be displayed at an event commemorating the 150th anniversary of the battle in 2013. "It's antiquated, yes, but it's a great piece of Gettysburg history."

The superintendent says that he would be willing to donate the map to a government agency or nonprofit, but so far, he says, no group with the resources to transport, maintain and display the map has stepped forward.

The map could not simply be handed back to the Rosensteels, he says, because it's now federal property.

O'Neil says she doesn't understand why the map should languish in storage.

"I want the map to remain viable and I will do anything in my power to make that happen," she says. "I feel it's very sad and it's wrong that the map is going to be put in storage. This was my father's creation. This was his masterpiece."
I sort of get the feeling that Ms. O'Neil is just mad that daddy's "masterpiece" is being taken down. I enjoyed the one time I paid to see it, but know a number of adults and kids who were bored to tears (or even sleep) during their visits. The map has served the park well for 45 years; let's get something more modern in place to go with the new visitor's center!

firstmdes
04-21-2008, 08:28 PM
The new Visitor's Center is open. I have seen that a few of you have already had a chance to visit. What are your thoughts about the absence of the Battlefield Map? Is it good that it is gone? Do you miss it?

Let me know what you think!

flattop32355
04-22-2008, 03:03 PM
I have not yet gone to the new museum, but do have some thoughts about the old map.

I'm going to guess that the new orientation display will be computerized animations on a screen. I'd also assume that they will do a good, possibly better, job of showing what happened from a birds-eye/direct overhead view of the field.

What they cannot replace is the three dimensional aspect of the old map. You could get an idea of the flow of the terrain, the exposed and hidden areas, that any two dimensional view cannot reproduce.

If they had problelms with children falling asleep during the old map show, they'll have the same thing happen with the same type children with the new show. Some folks just don't care much for the history. The type of presentation will have no effect on them.

As a part owner of the display, through my position as a taxpayer who helped pay for and maintain it, I say let the family have it back, whether they use it for profit or not. It's more reasonable than cutting it into pieces and storing it (with the very real prospect that it will never, ever be used again). If it can be used elsewhere to educate people about the battle, more power to 'em. And if they want to put it in their living room and just remember, that's fine, too.

Federal property is let go for a song all the time. At least in this case, it will go to a good cause; the family who made it in the first place.

paul hadley
04-22-2008, 04:55 PM
I have not yet gone to the new museum, but do have some thoughts about the old map ... Federal property is let go for a song all the time. At least in this case, it will go to a good cause; the family who made it in the first place.
Well said. I'll go along with that. Let those who still want to see it have the opportunity.
I first saw the GBurg map in 1971 (but skipped the "observation" tower tour) and enjoyed seeing the relationship of which hill was which and how the armies moved about. But then I like model trains and slot cars!
I spent more time peering through glass at the rows of artifacts and staring at the range of artillery tubes on subsequent visits to the visitor center over the years.
Looking forward to our adventure at AHT, Mr. B -- we've survived Massa Chawls' first course at Manassas, what more could he do to us in Pennsylvania?
Ever forward,
Paul

CheeseBoxRaft
04-22-2008, 06:39 PM
What they cannot replace is the three dimensional aspect of the old map. You could get an idea of the flow of the terrain, the exposed and hidden areas, that any two dimensional view cannot reproduce.
I'm not so sure about that. Despite the fact that it is viewable in a 2D setting (your computer screen) the 3D terrain setting in Google Earth is very good. Even looking straight down on the terrain, with the setting on, you can discern which mountain peaks are "closer." Of course, it also has the feature where you can zoom in and "look up" and see the mountains and buildings from an angle. I don't know what they have at G-burg to replace the map either. I just know that the means to depict 3D terrain features on a 2D flat screen is already here.


If they had problelms with children falling asleep during the old map show, they'll have the same thing happen with the same type children with the new show. Some folks just don't care much for the history. The type of presentation will have no effect on them.I agree with that. The old electric map was more about strategy and tactics than it was about "history" and it completely failed as "art." The cyclorama was always the bigger draw and it always will be.

Give it back to the family if they want it. Give it to a private museum. Or better yet, auction it off on ebay and let the proceeds go toward battlefield preservation.

1stMD5RgmtANV
04-22-2008, 11:22 PM
The new Visitor's Center is open. I have seen that a few of you have already had a chance to visit. What are your thoughts about the absence of the Battlefield Map? Is it good that it is gone? Do you miss it?

Let me know what you think!

I really enjoyed it. It's much different than what I saw for the last 28 years, but I realized that if you go there you better have more than an hour to read through and get a good look at everything in the museum, let alone whatever else is there. (I live less than an hour from Gettysburg, and it's a GREAT motorcycle run from here! A nice little perk.) Because I'm so close, I go to Gettysburg quite frequently, (alott of the time for the Gettysburg Cigar Co. and the Union Cigar Club,) so I will have plenty of time to see more of it.

When the open the cyclorama in September, I will be there because that is the weekend of my birthday, and I already told my wife what I want.

flattop32355
04-24-2008, 08:22 PM
Looking forward to our adventure at AHT, Mr. B -- we've survived Massa Chawls' first course at Manassas, what more could he do to us in Pennsylvania?

Paul,
Never threaten The Devil with the information that he has yet to gain your soul.....

Northern Reb
04-26-2008, 03:37 PM
Hey all, I kinda liked the old map. Something a little different for people to see, especially when we live in a high tech society. ALL they have now is a movie, typical in new museums. The electric map was something different. Kinda like going to a drive in movie theater. IMHO

Marty
Northern Reb

WWW.HISTORY-FORUMS.COM

spgass
05-14-2008, 10:06 PM
I agree with Northern Reb and wrote a supportive post on my blog for the antique map: http://lowtechtimes.com/2008/05/14/the-second-battle-of-gettysburg/

retter
05-23-2008, 04:44 PM
The superintendent said it's antiquated and of no further use to them. Hmmm... that would apply to most of the stuff in there. But it doesn't fit into the new NPS descriptions of history because it was about actual tactics and strategy. The new doctrine is apologetic thanks to Jesse Jackson Jr. If NPS can't find a use for it, give it back to the family. It's not like they'd be buying an $800 toilet seat.

ElijahsGrtGranddaughter
05-27-2008, 11:25 AM
The new Visitor's Center is open. I have seen that a few of you have already had a chance to visit. What are your thoughts about the absence of the Battlefield Map? Is it good that it is gone? Do you miss it?

Let me know what you think!

It is not just the absence of the Battlefield Map, but of other relics and historical exhibits as well.

You have to ask yourself after visiting the VC, what does it tell me about the Battle of Gettysburg? NOTHING! What does it show you of the Battle of Gettysburg? NOTHING!

Where are the artifacts, relics, mini balls, weapons, cannons, uniforms, civilian wear and the mention of the homes that were caught in the middle of this great WAR.

Kind Regards,

~Kerri

ElijahsGrtGranddaughter
05-27-2008, 11:34 AM
The superintendent said it's antiquated and of no further use to them. Hmmm... that would apply to most of the stuff in there. But it doesn't fit into the new NPS descriptions of history because it was about actual tactics and strategy. The new doctrine is apologetic thanks to Jesse Jackson Jr. If NPS can't find a use for it, give it back to the family. It's not like they'd be buying an $800 toilet seat.

From my understanding, all of the artifacts, to include that map were on contract with the NPS. And they are now choosing to breach that contract by not displaying the map or any of the other Thousands of artifacts provided by the family.

The Family has taken the contract to court and requested ALL of their family's donated items returned and the NPS' response is Possession is 9/10th of the law.

But again, this is coming from several Gettysburg Residents and could only be hearsay.

Kind Regards,

~Kerri