Tag Archives: Gettysburg National Military Park

I second what they said

Several other history blogs have already posted this, but I’m putting it up, too, because it bears repeating as much as possible.

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A new, independent Gettysburg casino study

…reveals that, yes, it’s not going to be such a great deal after all

The casino’s backers have overestimated the number of job openings, understated the degree to which these jobs will be low-paying and part-time, neglected to factor in the damage that will be done to existing businesses, ignored the data from similar cases, and forgotten to account for the existence of competitive gaming venues in the surrounding region.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  When you’re looking for solid information about some financial undertaking, you’re not likely to get it from the guy that stands to make a buck.

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Diminishing returns

Wondering how much new revenue the proposed Gettysburg casino might generate?  Judging by the long faces among gambling industry leaders, I’d say not that much: 

As new casinos keep popping up, even with overall gambling revenue stagnating, casino companies are fighting harder for smaller shares of their market.

Executives at the East Coast Gaming Congress, a national casino conference, said Tuesday that with many states now adding table games to the mix, it’s going to be even tougher to succeed in the cutthroat East Coast market.

‘We have to fight this explosion of gambling all around us,’ said Don Marrandino, eastern regional president of Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., which has four casinos in Atlantic City. ‘We have to continually reinvent ourselves as a destination.’

Operators of commercial casinos in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia told the gathering in Atlantic City they are being forced to fight for one another’s customers.

‘I don’t think it’s saturated yet, but it’s clearly crowded, clearly more challenging,’ John Finamore, senior vice president of regional operations for Penn National Gaming, said of the East Coast market As new casinos keep popping up, even with overall gambling revenue stagnating, casino companies are fighting harder for smaller shares of their market.

More details in the original news item, released just yesterday.  Still sticking by that rosy economic impact study?

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I know they have a legal right to meet there

…but seriously, can’t the “Aryan Nations” find some place besides Gettysburg National Military Park to have a rally?

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Evaluating Latschar

A reader left this comment on my previous post: “A bit off-topic, but what do you think of the NPS transferring Gettysburg Superintendent John Latschar to an in-house desk job after thousands of pornographic images were found on his work computer?”

From Wikimedia Commons

It’s a fair question.  I’ve got plenty of opinions about some of the recent changes at Gettysburg—the new exhibits, the tree-cutting, the public-private relationship—and I’ve discussed them on this blog a number of times.  For the most part, I’m pretty favorable about them.  The field is closer to its original appearance, thanks to the tree-removal and the closing of the old Visitor Center.  I like the new exhibits; I fully agree with the critics who claim that the focus should be on the battle itself, but I found that the new museum explains the battle much more effectively than the old one.  And as for the public-private partnership, I’m fine with it.  In fact, private non-profit support groups are pretty much standard for any historic site or museum that’s also a government entity.  Plenty of people will donate to a private foundation; few will do so to a government agency.  (I ran a museum for a little while that was a government department, and all our fundraising was through the private non-profit group associated with us.)  I can see how Latschar assuming leadership of the Foundation might be questionable, but the partnership with the Foundation isn’t anything but standard museum/preservation practice.

As for the computer scandal and Latschar’s transfer to a desk job, though, I’m afraid my answer is going to sound disingenuous.  I actually don’t have an opinion about it. 

I don’t know Latschar personally, of course, and I’m not privy to any information about this that hasn’t been in the press or made public.  I don’t know what the standard punishment is for this type of misuse of a Department of the Interior computer, so I can’t say whether he got off easy or not.  I will say that news of his transfer surprised me.  I expected the whole thing to blow over.

What I find really striking about Latschar’s transfer—and everything that’s happened at Gettysburg in recent years—is the public interest generated.  I can’t think of any other historic site or public historian that has generated so much passion and controversy, from the dispute over the Electric Map to this last round.  In fact, I think the Electric Map controversy has generated much, much more interest than the complete loss of Brandywine Battlefield’s state funding; the dismantling of a single exhibit got more attention than the closure of one of the most important Revolutionary War sites.

Gettysburg, in other words, is another animal altogether.  I doubt any other historic site could have been the center of such passionate discussion as has centered around it for the past few years.  I don’t like seeing so many history devotees disagree with each other, but the disagreement shows that they all care about the place—and that’s a very good thing.

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Electric Map 2.0

A couple of days ago I posted about a news item that Eric Wittenberg mentioned on his blog.  To recap, the folks at Gettysburg National Military Park are thinking about reviving the Electric Map in the form of a film presentation.

Critics of the map said that it was too big and too antiquated, and I agree.  But I can also sympathize with those who miss seeing the battle play out in three dimensions, and I think that basic approach remains the best way to demonstrate the troop movements for visitors.  Given that fact, and all the uproar, I wondered in my post (as I’ve wondered before) why the NPS didn’t utilize fiber optic technology to create a smaller, modernized, smoother version of the Electric Map for the twenty-first century, such as the one at Cowpens National Battlefield.

I should’ve thought of this before I published that post, but I decided to see if I could find an online video of the Cowpens map, so those of you who haven’t been there could see what I was talking about.  To my surprise, I found one. 

The ex-museum guy in me gets all giddy over this sort of thing.  This baby is remarkably compact, located inside a tiny auditorium with a few benches.  There’s a separate map above it that depicts the overall strategic situation in the Revolutionary South, although in this clip it’s replaced with illustrations.

Now imagine one of these in the new visitor center at Gettysburg, along with a fiber optic wall map to show the invasion of Pennsylvania and Lee’s retreat back into Virginia.  I think it’d be pretty sweet, and visitors could still get that three-dimensional orientation that the Electric Map provided—without the bulk and noise.

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Reincarnating the Electric Map?

Eric Wittenberg draws our attention to an interesting news item from Gettysburg.  They’re throwing around the idea of bringing back some version of the Electric Map in a conventional, movie-theater format. 

I’m not sure what they’ve got in mind, but the news item makes an implication that has me scratching my head: “The Electric Map was disassembled earlier this year and placed in storage, where it remains today. But before it was taken apart, the Electric Map presentation was filmed, Park Superintendent John Latschar said Thursday. The film is being edited, he said.”

Did I get that right?  Are they thinking about just running a film of the Electric Map running through its paces?  If that’s the case, I’ll pass.

Maybe they’re planning to put together a new, original film that will basically be a two-dimensional, onscreen animated map.  That’s not a bad idea, but it won’t really accomplish anything that hasn’t already been done with the shorter tactical films in the battle galleries.  The only advantage would be that visitors could see the entire battle as a whole, as they did before.

As much as I love the new exhibits, I still can’t figure out why they didn’t replace the Electric Map with a smaller, fiber optic version similar to the one at Cowpens.  The decision to demolish the old map seemed to have a lot to do with its unwieldy size and outdated technology; the approach at Cowpens would have eliminated both of these problems.   Anyway, we’ll see what they’ve got in the works.

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