This past September, I was able to arrange a quick preview tour of Gettysburg's newest attraction: the Seminary Ridge Museum. Located in the original Lutheran Theological Seminary near the Chambersburg Pike, the structure has undergone a $15 million renovation for the upcoming 2013 sesquicentennial of the battle. Previously serving as the home of the Adams County Historical Society, this new museum will be dedicated to multiple layers of Civil War and local history. These facets will include the July 1, 1863 battle, the building's role as a field hospital, and also the conflict as a theological and moral crisis in regard to religion and freedom. As of the moment, construction workers are and have been working rapidly in order to complete the building by this summer. The last I heard, a "light" opening will be taking place in the spring and the grand opening will be occurring on the battle anniversary itself. From April through June, special group tours can be arranged. The new attraction will surely add yet another useful dimension to comprehending Gettysburg's rich story. Now, let's go on a hardhat tour....
We first met with Barbara Franco, the founding executive director of the museum, in the Wentz Library. Barbara was the former director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum in Commission and is helping to spearhead this new endeavor. Here, she discussed fundraising, restoration news, and museum goals as the project quickly moves forward. In addition to numerous multi-media exhibits and period-furnished rooms, the museum will feature several large murals with the artwork of Dale Gallon. The large canvas painting seen in the background will be reproduced and enlarged at high resolution, covering an entire wall upon completion. This one in particular shows the seminary building at the end of the first day's battle as it became a mass field hospital. Over 600 soldiers were treated there.
whole treasure trove of items have been discovered in the various nooks and crannies of the site, featuring letters, shoes, plates, bottles and various nicknacks of the past.
I am very much anticipating the opening of this museum. I have been pleased to see the civilian role in the battle taking on an increasingly prominent part in the larger saga of the fight. In one interview, Barbara Franco stated, “People talk about walls talking. In this case the walls have been chattering to us. . . .The building itself is our major artifact. It’s a great place to start any visit to Gettysburg because it focuses on the battle’s first day.” Given its prime location near the Lincoln Highway, I'm sure that will be just the case. Be sure to visit the museum's website and Facebook page to receive further updates as we near the grand opening on July 1.