Check out Jesse Smith’s piece on the two faces of Gettysburg (hat tip: John Fea). One is the solemn and scholarly face of the park, the museums, and historic sites; the second is the kitschy face of the tourist attractions and amenities that have sprung up around the battlefield.
Like Smith, I’ve got to admit that I like some of the hokey tourism-driven aspects of Gettysburg, even though I’m in favor of returning things to their circa-1863 appearance to as practical an extent as is possible. Hokey tourist traps have become an indelible part of the Gettysburg experience, just as the hokey roadside attractions devoted to gunfighters and lawmen are an indelible part of my memories of visiting the West with my parents. (I draw the line at ghost tours, however. I’m not sure why, but the very notion of ghost tours near a battlefield rubs me the wrong way.)
Of course, I’m not old enough to remember a time before all the tourist traps and gift shops, so they’ve always been a part of the only Gettysburg I know. My affinity for . If new ones started popping up near some relatively undeveloped historic site, I’d probably be up in arms. I guess what I’m saying is that when we’re considering the maximum level of tolerable kitschification at historic places, our opinions will partly depend on subjective and personal factors and on our own personal memories of the places in question.