Monthly Archives: August 2012

If there’s one thing we don’t need near Manassas

…it’s more highways.

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Filed under Civil War, Historic Preservation

The Cyclorama building is another step closer to demolition

In 2010 a judge ordered Gettysburg National Military Park to re-evaluate its plan to demolish the Cyclorama building.  The park just finished that review, and tearing it down remains the best option as far as the NPS is concerned.  The Recent Past Preservation Network is apparently putting together a response.

For whatever it’s worth, I wouldn’t miss it.  Its removal would help conform the landscape more closely to its 1863 appearance, which is the park’s primary preservation aim.  The painting has a new home in the visitor center, so as of now, the building is an empty shell that doesn’t really serve any interpretive function.  The architect’s son would like to see it turned into a Lincoln museum, but since the visitor center exhibit has pretty thorough coverage of the Gettysburg Address and the larger context of the war, another display doesn’t seem like the best use of a crucial piece of battleground.

And aesthetically…well, this pretty much comes down to personal taste, but to me it looks like some sort of sacred kiva built by ancient aliens, which isn’t the kind of thing that seems at home on a Civil War battlefield.

Cue Richard Strauss fanfare from 2001: A Space Odyssey

Still, I can see where the building’s supporters are coming from.  It’s an interesting example of twentieth-century architecture, and it’s been there so long that it’s sort of a Gettysburg institution.  The whole situation is reminiscent of the Electric Map ruckus.  You’ve got an interpretive tool that’s outlived its original purpose—in fact, it’s standing in the way of advancing the park’s long-term goals—but the tool itself has become so venerable that some people see it as an integral part of what makes the site such a special place.  In other words, when you have a longstanding connection to a particular historic site, the individual level of personal and sentimental memory gets woven into the larger fabric of collective, historical memory.

Of course, sentiment isn’t the only point at issue; opponents of demolishing the building argue that it’s got enough architectural significance to make it inherently valuable.  Thus we have an unusual situation in which some of us history buffs oppose a preservation effort, albeit with the aim of restoring the landscape around it.

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Filed under Civil War, Historic Preservation

Some conventional thinking

I’ve got a short piece on the Republican National Convention of 1860 (which was a lot more interesting than the one going on now) over at the Lincoln Institute blog.

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Filed under Abraham Lincoln

Remember the biggest American uprising since 1865?

You know, the one where coal companies and the armed forces teamed up against striking miners in an honest-to-goodness battle?  If it doesn’t ring a bell, here’s a quick refresher.

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Filed under Appalachian History

Butterflies

My classes kicked off this week.  In the days leading up to the start of the semester, I get this weird mix of anticipation tinged with a little nervousness.  I don’t know why I should be nervous; I’ve done this plenty of times before, and I’m the one in charge of the class.  But it happens anyway, and lasts until I walk into the room, crank up the projector, and get rolling.  After that, I’m fine.  Better than fine, actually; I really enjoy myself.

It always reminds me of this scene from Collateral in which an L.A. prosecutor talks about the night before she has to stand up in the courtroom.

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Filed under Teaching History

Another Civil War heritage controversy, coming right up

When all else fails, you can always count on a Nathan Bedford Forrest monument to stir up a mess.  This one’s in Selma, AL and got vandalized back in March.  Now it’s about to get repaired, but there’s a petition going around asking the city council to take the whole thing down.

The thing is, neither the monument nor the land on which it sits belong to the city.  It was on public property when first erected in 2000, but a ruckus ensued which resulted in its relocation to a plot owned by the UDC following year.  What do the petitioners expect the city council to do about a monument on private land?  Your guess is as good as mine.

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Filed under Civil War, History and Memory

You know your living history demonstration has to be good

…when a spectator actually passes out.

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Filed under Civil War, Reenacting