Monday, October 17, 2011


Let me start by admitting we did not allow nearly enough time to visit Gettysburg. We spent Columbus Day Weekend in Virginia touring Presidential Homes (for more information on those, see other blog entries). Our stop at Gettysburg was more like a four-hour rest stop than a complete visit to Gettysburg.

With that said, I am glad we stopped. Rather than taking I-95 home, we drove on scenic Route 15 and enjoyed the beginnings of fall foliage.

Our stop included the Gettysburg National Park Service Museum and Visitors Center, which opened in a new building in 2008. By far, the highlight of the Visitors Center is the Gettysburg Cyclorama -- which someone described to us as the 3D movie of the late 19th century. It is a 360-degree depiction of "Pickett's Charge," a key part of the Battle of Gettysburg. It was first created in 1883 -- a mere 20 years after the Battle of Gettysburg. Its statistics are stunning -- it is 42 feet high, and 377 feet in diameter. Every 15 minutes a small movie theater filled with people enter the center of the cyclorama to see the scened come to life. Words cannot do the experience justice. This is just one section of the cylorama. The colors and depth of images are stunning

Four copies of the painting were created. Only two are known to exist. These are the only two versions of any cyclorama known to exist. The Gettysburg Cyclorama has a long history of being mistreated. In 2003 a five-year restoration process took place at a cost of $15 million dollars to return it to its original glory. The transformation is incredible.

I found the museum to be overwhelming with the amount of information it contains, and the care that was taken to display the information. I also found the museum to be too loud for me -- there were not a lot of people, but each room had at least one movie in it, which could be heard in the next room, too. The cacophony made it hard for me to read the descriptions next to the the display cases.

When we were finished with the inside, we had about an hour left before we had to continue the last leg of our drive home. We chose to walk to the Soldier's Cemetery, where Abraham Lincoln gave his famous speech, and where the Union dead are buried, along with veterans from more recent wars. It was definitely worth the mile-long walk.

A pretty fall scene.

PS: Writing this piece was also a lesson in using primary sources. I started by being lazy and using Wikipedia as my source (yes, the librarian in me did shudder). Upon further searching, I came across a press release issued by the National Park Services in 2009 touting their wonderful new visitors center in Gettysburg, PA. This document's information about the Cyclorama contradicted Wikipedia. I made the decision to go with the NPS information over Wikipedia. Shocking, I know.

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