Gettysburg: A Jumping-Off Point for Civil War Education
A blog post by Education Intern Marissa Walker. To read additional posts by Marissa and other interns, click here.
Last Friday, the Education and Programs department took a work trip to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. We had recently been discussing the museum’s upcoming Jews in the Civil War exhibit extensively with the museum’s curator, Karen Falk, and were hoping to gain some inspiration through an exploration of the famous Civil War battlefield.
After a brief peek into the Visitor Center, we grabbed a map and began our journey through history on the first leg of the Auto Tour around the historic site. With Education Director Ilene at the wheel and Programs Manager Rachel ceremoniously guiding us through the tour map with much gusto, we immersed ourselves in the story of America’s bloodiest battle. There could be no self-respecting historic battle recap without historically accurate background music and sound effects, so I provided the bugle blares, while intern Trillion banged the theoretical drums, and visitor coordinator Abby filled out the treble clef with some excellent “fife” playing. We felt very patriotic, indeed.
After exploring the first half of the auto tour and the northern portion of the battlefield, we backtracked to the town surrounding the site and met Museum President Marvin Pinkert for a very productive brainstorming lunch. During our meal, we discussed possible educational programs and activities to include in the package we might offer school groups coming to see the Civil War exhibit in the fall.
One idea we tossed around was a “Make a Monument” activity. In theory, kids would design their own monument, explain what it represents, write about why they chose to commemorate that particular person, event, or place. This idea sprung from our amazement at all the different monuments and commemorations found all over the Gettysburg battlefield, each one immortalizing a different person or group of people, and completely unique.
We had also had a chance to speak with a few living historians during our visit, and agreed that a great addition to the exhibit might be a very simple military-issue tent set up, where young kids would be able to interact with the living quarters typical of a soldier during the Civil War time period. Sutlers, a stores specializing in historically accurate reproductions of clothing, utensils, and general accouterments of soldiers and their families on the home front, typically carry these kinds of items, so we decided to go out in search of one before we began our drive back.
After an enjoyable walk and a lovely, if slightly unexpected, rain shower, we found one! It was delightful to browse through all of the interesting items re-enactors use on a daily basis to authenticate their characters, and to see the world of possibilities for kids programs and activities. Feeling exhilarated and excited to bring our ideas to fruition, we parted ways with Marvin, and headed back to the car, and south towards Baltimore, intent on incorporating all we had learned into our future museum education plans.
Check back tomorrow for a different perspective on the Gettysburg field trip from none other than our Executive Director Marvin Pinkert!