The Hayfoot and I started talking earnestly over the weekend about our annual pilgrimage to Gettysburg. Maybe it was the 20 degree February weather that got us thinking about late June. Last night I pulled out the booklet sent to me a few months back by a Civil War preservation group to which I am a member. It will be a busy season at Gettysburg to put it mildly. The Antietam anniversary last September was a huge deal, and this should be even bigger. It is always good seeing people soaking up their history and culture. We were happy to see the packed rooms at the National Portrait Gallery over Presidents Day Weekend. For one thing higher attendance at our museums and national parks means potentially better budgets, or at least fewer cuts. If you don’t stay relevant what have you got? Many of the activities at Gettysburg will be better than others. Some will be thought provoking, and some will be crass. It may surprise you to know that, unlike some, I don’t get too worked about the commercialism at Gettysburg or at any historical site. People have been cashing in on the Battle of Gettysburg since approximately July 4, 1863.
I first visited Gettysburg in July 2008, three months after the opening of the new visitor center, and so have no firsthand knowledge of the town as a tourist site prior to the new clubhouse. I do know that many business owners on Steinwehr Avenue were concerned about tourists finding their way to the commercial strip. These are not unreasonable concerns. The stakes are high, especially during the sesquicentennial. When I was in library school I volunteered in a small history museum that stood on a courthouse square in a small town in Texas. Surrounding the courthouse museum, on all four sides, were a number of restaurants and antique shops. The revenue they generated for the town in tourists dollars was considerable. What does 2013 mean for Gettysburg? The Hanover (PA) Evening Sun offers some insight.