Tuesday, July 29, 2014

New and Noteworthy--Making, Managing and Creating Memories of Gettysburg National Military Park

On A Great Battlefield: The Making, Management, and Memory of Gettysburg National Military Park, 1933-2013, Jennifer M. Murray, University of Tennessee Press, 2014, 312pp, notes, bibliography, index, 3 maps, 34 b/w photographs.$49.00.

Certainly with 82 pages of notes and 14 pages of bibliography, Jennifer M. Murray was provided one of the very best studies of the history of Gettysburg National Military Park [NM]. The first chapter covers the first 70 years of the park. The next ten chapters details the 80 year span between 1993 to 2013. Murray, currently an assistant professor of history at University of Virginia's College at Wise is formerly a seasonal interpretative ranger during nine summer at at Gettysburg NMP.

Of contemporary interest is the coverage Murray provides for the planning, the fundraising and the bitter controversies regarding expansive changes at Gettysburg. The public/private partnership to build the $103 million visitor center, the landscape rehabilitation, and the inclusion of exhibits presenting slavery, abolition, secession, Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s in the visitor center may well be studied and redirect the mission, tasks and future of the National Parks Service and its historical parks.

The final years of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century is viewed as a watershed era in the story of the park. Excepting the years between 1933 and 1940, when the park had available funds from the New Deal, no other era contained the degree of expansion and improvement to the battlefield. Eight of the 11 chapters focus upon the era of 1946-2013. Though initially a Phd. dissertation, Murray's narrative in On A Great Battlefield is clear, concise, cogent and accessible to the general reader.

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