Here are some more fiber optic battle maps from the folks that brought you the one at Cowpens. I love these things!
Monthly Archives: September 2009
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.
The past few days have given us a flurry of Lincoln movie news, which you can read about in a series of posts by Brian Dirck (here, here, and here). Robert Redford has a Mary Surratt film in the works, and Spielberg is still pursuing his long-awaited Lincoln project.
Coincidentally, the History Channel has been on a Lincoln assassination kick today, with one documentary on the plot to steal his body and another on Booth’s possible connections to the Confederate government. The latter is on right now; as I type this sentence, Ed Steers, Jr. is giving some on-air commentary. Steers is a diligent Lincoln researcher and the author of Blood on the Moon, a fine book that I highly recommend.
All this reminds me of a story I tell whenever the subject of Lincoln movies or the assassination come up. Steers came to the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum to lecture during my first stint there, back when I was fresh out of college. Steven Wilson (ALLM’s curator and my boss) took Steers and his wife to dinner down in Cumberland Gap that night, and allowed me to tag along.
When the conversation turned to Lincoln movies, Steven jokingly suggested we all produce our own, with himself in the role of Edwin Stanton, and me as John Wilkes Booth. Ed Steers examined me critically for a second or two, and then said approvingly, “Yeah, you’d make a good Booth!”
I was pretty flattered. Remember, this came from one of the foremost Lincoln assassination authorities in the world. Of course, he was comparing me to the murderer of the most beloved figure in American history. But still.
With an endorsement like that, you’d think either Redford or Spielberg would’ve called me by now. Maybe I should get a new agent.
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.
Here’s an item from Civil War News with an update on the collection of the recently-closed Lincoln Museum in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Those of you who have followed this story know that part of the material will go to the Indiana State Museum, and the archival stuff will go to the Allen County Public Library in Ft. Wayne.
The State Museum “will create a permanent Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection Gallery and host a Lincoln exhibit at least once every three years, not counting traveling exhibits.” In other words, the collection’s highlights will still be on public view, despite the Lincoln Museum’s closure. That’s good news.
The Smithsonian and the ALPLM lobbied for the material, and I know it would’ve been in great hands at either of those institutions. Personally, though, I’m glad it’s staying in Indiana. One of my fears, when I heard about the Lincoln Museum’s closure, was that Indiana’s schoolkids and history buffs would lose access to this fantastic resource because it would end up in another part of the country.
Lincoln came of age in Indiana, the collection has been in that state for decades, and it’s appropriate that it stay there. The ideal scenario would’ve been for the Lincoln Museum to stay open and the collection to remain intact, but given the circumstances, I think this is the best possible outcome.
In honor of the excellent Italian cuisine I enjoyed this evening, I humbly direct your attention to this highly unexpected item from the Thomas Jefferson Papers in the Library of Congress.
“[P]rovided the flour be of a good quality, & not ground extremely fine, it will always do very well.”—TJ, the Martha Stewart of the eighteenth century
File this one under “Signs of the Times.” Somebody at the Massachusetts Historical Society noticed that John Quincy Adams wrote very brief entries in the diary he kept after his appointment as minister to Russia. Next thing you know, Adams has his own Twitter account.
They’re posting the diary entries on a daily basis, exactly two centuries after Adams wrote each one. So far he’s still on his voyage across the Atlantic, headed to St. Petersburg. Today’s entry: “9/7/1809: Head wind. Calm. Rain, Fog. Lat: 60-30. Long: 7-14. No Soundings. Phocion. Cato of Utica. Birds. Cards.”
Some entries are linked to a Google map marked with the coordinates he put down, so you can trace his voyage across the Atlantic as he tweets merrily away. Pretty nifty!