Good news from the battlefield. The David Bruce Smith Education Initiative has donated one million dollars to the Gettysburg Foundation and the park for interpretive programs related to Abraham Lincoln. Perhaps it would have been better used for battlefield preservation or restoration, but just the same, it is great news for park programs.
$1 Million will pay for park programs
The Gettysburg Foundation plans to spread out a $1 million gift over the next 10 years for a series of Abraham Lincoln-related programs, scholarships and distance-learning activities. The foundation, which operates the new Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center, recently announced its receipt of the donation from the Robert H. Smith Family Foundation.
According to a press release, the programs will debut this year and will be centered at the visitor center, Soldiers' National Cemetery and at other Gettysburg sites. The 10-year effort is being called the David Bruce Smith Education Initiative, named for Robert Smith's son. Robert Smith is a Virginia-based businessman and philanthropist who Gettysburg Foundation spokeswoman Dru Neil said often makes donations for history education.
Although the donation is expected to pay for a decade's worth of programming, Neil said the foundation wanted to capitalize on the attention to Lincoln's 200th birthday this year. "The timing could not be better," she said. "We definitely wanted to get started now."
Scheduled so far for this year is a walking tour of Lincoln's visit to Gettysburg, which will take visitors to the Lincoln Train Station on Carlisle Street, the David Wills House where Lincoln stayed the night of Nov. 8, 1863 and to the cemetery where the 16th president delivered his famous Gettysburg Address. The self-guided tour brochure will be available beginning in April.
A summer series of theatrical and musical performances will also be held at the visitor center. In the fall, special tours focusing on the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln's 1863 visit will be held at the cemetery.
Finally for 2009, a statue of Lincoln will be unveiled Nov. 19 - the 146th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address - at the visitor center. Distance-learning activities - when Gettysburg officials broadcast history lessons to classrooms across the country - are also part of the initiative and will pay for Lincoln-related curriculum, Neil said.
"Those have been wildly, wildly popular," she said. The initiative will continue in 2010 with public programs, an annual lecture and a portable exhibit on Lincoln and his speech.