If you’ve got $1,695,000 to spare, you could be the next proprietor of the American Civil War Wax Museum in Gettysburg. It’s officially on the market.
The exhibits depict such critical turning points as the fateful evening of May 2, 1863, when ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons and Mark Twain tended to a wounded Grigori Rasputin…
…and Lincoln’s 1860 conference with Lt. Commander Worf of the USS Enterprise.
Pics are from tripadvisor.com.
The original, honest-to-goodness Electric Map is up for grabs at a government auction site (with a tip of the hat to Brooks Simpson).
Need the perfect gift for that Civil War buff who has everything? Look no more. He’ll be the envy of all his fellow CWRT members. Oh, Bob, I heard your kids bought you another Kunstler print. Here, step into the living room for a minute and I’ll show you what the wife picked up for my birthday.
But wait, there’s more! During the holiday season, the Electric Map doubles as a festive lawn decoration! With a simple bulb reconfiguration, Longstreet’s July 2 attack on the Union left transforms into two elves dancing atop the words JOY TO THE WORLD.
All joking aside, think about this for a minute. On several occasions we’ve noted how an individual’s personal memories sometimes intersect with collective historical memory. When you’ve been visiting a site for many years and it’s become the locus for many fond recollections, you come to regard it as much for its personal nostalgic value as for its objective historical significance.
Now, consider how the Disney parks cater to hardcore fans. Some Disney rides stay in operation for decades, acquire enthusiastic followings, and become venerable institutions in their own right. A few years ago, the folks at the Mouse introduced a line of commemorative pins which contain tiny pieces of the actual attractions themselves, removed during refurbishment or when a ride is dismantled. They’re like little pop culture reliquaries.
Thus Disney enthusiasts get to have a tangible connection to something that’s dear to them, and the parks make a little money. Maybe historic sites are missing out on the nostalgic market. The uproar over the Electric Map and the Cyclorama building indicate that we’re a pretty sentimental bunch.
A few items for your edification as you kiss your summer goodbye.
- Joel McDurmon argues that David Barton failed to make his case in The Jefferson Lies. The reason this is noteworthy is because McDurmon’s piece is posted at the American Vision website. This organization calls for a nation “that recognizes the sovereignty of God over all of life, where Christians apply a Biblical worldview to every facet of society. This future America will be again a ‘city on a hill’ drawing all nations to the Lord Jesus Christ and teaching them to subdue the earth for the advancement of His Kingdom.” It’s pretty interesting to see Christian Reconstructionists taking Barton apart. (Hat tip to John Fea)
- A few months ago Connecticut rolled out a $27 million tourism marketing campaign organized around the slogan “Still Revolutionary,” which “speaks to Connecticut’s deep roots in the founding of this country and reminds us that we still have that independent, revolutionary spirit,” according to Gov. Daniel Malloy. It’s a little odd, therefore, that Fort Griswold (site of the 1781 Battle of Groton Heights and one of the state’s most important Rev War attractions) is conspicuously absent in the ads that have been released so far. It’s the thought that counts, anyway.
- In a new book, Robert Sullivan does for the Revolutionary War in the middle states what Tony Horwitz did for the Civil War in the South.
- Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg is getting a new museum, slated to open next July.
- An Illinois Lincoln fan is heading out on a cross-country trip to read the Gettysburg Address from the steps of every state capitol. If my reckoning is correct, that adds up to about an hour and forty minutes of actual speaking time.
- Speaking of Lincoln, the folks at Simon & Schuster know an opportunity when they see one.
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.
…when a spectator actually passes out.
A New Jersey man noticed Gadsden flag merchandise for sale at Gettysburg National Military Park’s bookstore and then went off on a three-alarm tear:
“It isn’t sold in a historically relevant context,” said Paul Gioni, a battlefield enthusiast from Mahwah, N.J., who contacted the National Park Service and The Evening Sun after visiting the park recently. “This is blatantly political merchandise.”
The nonprofit Gettysburg Foundation operates the bookstore and a spokeswoman said the Gadsden flag merchandise serves a goal of representing the broader context of American history. Furthermore, Cindy Small said, there remain connections between the Gadsden flag and fighting at Gettysburg.
“During the Civil War, the flag was used in some Southern states as a symbol of secession,” she said.
Personally, I think there’s a legitimate case to be made that a Civil War battlefield isn’t the best venue for selling a flag usually associated with the Rev War, but this isn’t it.
“The flag is legitimate in the proper context,” Gioni said. “The problem is this flag has been hijacked for the political stage. It’s definitely partisan and definitely inappropriate. The park should be politically neutral.”
Look, when it comes to historic sites, the Gadsden flag is pretty neutral. Unless you’re a monarchist.
Gioni doesn’t believe the Gettysburg bookstore is pushing partisan politics. Rather, he said, the items are probably stocked because they sell.
I think that’s a safe bet. Stores usually stock items because they sell.
“When you’re in an election year, you know this stuff is going to make a fast buck,” he said. “They’re disregarding what’s appropriate in the interest of money.”
The folks at Gettysburg denied any intention of pandering to present-day politics, and I don’t see any reason not to believe them. In any case, GNMP has only gotten one complaint about the Gadsden merch. So I’m not saying it’s just you, Gioni, but…it’s just you.
By Arman Manookian (Honolulu Academy of Arts) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
…over at the Lincoln Institute blog, but Kevin Levin says pretty much the same thing more concisely and bluntly at Civil War Memory.