Tuesday, March 15, 2016

What is the Gettysburg Heritage Center?

I think that it is fitting for the Gettysburg Heritage Center’s first blog to take some time, and explain exactly who ‘we’ are.  I myself have worked for the GHC since it opened for business in August of 2013. Prior to that, the building was the home of the former American Civil War Wax Museum, which I was an employee for 18 years.  Over the years, there have been many changes, and the biggest came in 2014 when we closed the doors for several months, and completely renovated the facility.  It was a major renovation project, and in the end all I can say is… WOW!

Cosmetically, the entire place looks AMAZING! Store facades line the foyer when you walk in, high ceilings, better lighting, marble floors, and the list can go on and on.  More importantly, the museum’s storyline has been completely re-done, and updated making it not only easy to navigate, but much more educational and engaging.

So what is the Gettysburg Heritage Center? The GHC is about the people.  It is about the town of Gettysburg and those who called it home before, during and after the battle.  Upon entering the museum, guests learn about what made the town tick.  A booming carriage industry prior to the war, roads that all converged in the town, a telegraph, numerous businesses, and Gettysburg was the county seat.  Travel further into the museum and learn about the war coming to town.  If you lived in Gettysburg and heard troops were moving toward your home would you stay? Would you leave? Where would you go? This is what the citizens had to face over 150 years ago.  Imagine being put in the position to make a split second decision that could change your life and your family’s life forever.  In the museum’s “Cellar Experience”, guests will get a feel for what it was like for those who chose to stay in town. To have the enemy invade your home, and not knowing what was happening around you.   The focus of the tour then shifts toward the dead and the wounded, and how the town came together to rebuild, and move on. The daunting task of cleaning up after the battle took months.  The wounded were cared for, and the dead buried in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, and the towns people pushed on and continued on with lives, forever changed by those three days in July.  The tour concludes with a 20 minute presentation of “Gettysburg: An Animated Map,” produced by the Civil War Trust.  It is a great overview of the battle, providing maps and troop movement, making the battle easy to understand.  It’s the perfect place to start before going out to explore the battlefield.

As you maneuver your way through the museum exhibits, you’ll find the story comes to life in a variety of ways.  Since people learn differently, the story is told in various platforms.  There are panels to read, artifacts to look at, interactive displays, movie presentations, even 3-D programs! The variety allows each visitor to become engaged in a way that is comfortable for them!  Every member of the family, young or old, male or female, are able to gain a better understanding of life in Gettysburg in the 1860’s.

Oh, and I can’t forget to mention that located in the lobby of the GHC is one of the nicest and largest gift shops in Gettysburg! The selection is great – there is a little bit of everything - apparel, books, children’s games and toys, collectibles, home décor, replica weapons, souvenirs and gifts! It’s a must stop shop when you’re visiting!

The next time you’re in Gettysburg, stop by and see all that we have to offer! You’ll be glad you did! In the meantime, be sure to visit our website at www.GettysburgMuseum.com, and check us out on facebook at Gettysburg Heritage Center.  We look forward to seeing you!

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