Wednesday, February 15, 2012

News----Asbestos or Is It Just Too Big? Gettysburg's Electric Map's Future

Asbestos Not A Factor In Possible Disposal of Electric Map: Battlefield Officials Say The Map Is Outdated And Too Large, Tim Prudente, The Evening Sun, February 13, 2012

The very features that made the Electric Map a favorite among Gettysburg tourists might also bring about the end of the nostalgic attraction. Thirty square-feet in size, the map was just too large to be housed in the new Museum & Visitor Center, according to battlefield officials. To fans, its appeal is decidedly low-tech and kitschy. To officials, the map is outdated.

It contains about 625 flashing lights that depict battle formations and troop movements. But the display lacks the interpretive value of the 20-minute movie narrated by Morgan Freeman at the Museum & Visitor Center, according to Gettysburg National Military Park officials.

Battlefield Superintendent Bob Kirby recently announced that the park is considering disposing of the map. But not because the attraction, more than 60 years old, is contaminated with friable asbestos, according to information released by park officials. In a friable condition, asbestos fibers when dry easily can be crumbled and released into the air, from where they can be inhaled or ingested.

"Issues related to interpretive value and operational costs have been the two determining factors," stated an email from park spokeswoman Katie Lawhon. "The asbestos is only a topic now because we may have to consider it as we (sell or give away) the Electric Map."

The map was mothballed in 2009, after the new Museum & Visitor Center opened. Before that, it was restored in 1963 for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. And more than 2 million people are believed to have watched the display of colored lights. Kirby is working to determine the most environmentally appropriate and legal way to dispose of the map. Similarly, the Park Service is planning the disposition process and more details are expected in the coming weeks.

Other battlefields -- nearby Monocacy outside Frederick, Md., for example -- still use such maps to depict fighting. When the new Museum & Visitor Center opened, the map was replaced with the movie, "New Birth of Freedom." The Gettysburg Foundation operates the visitor center and is storing the map. Foundation spokeswoman Cindy Small said the location is secret to keep the map "safe and secure."

At the old visitor center on Taneytown Road, the map could be viewed by the public for $4 a ticket. Park officials ultimately decided not to reopen the exhibit at the new site on Baltimore Pike. They cited a lack of interest from the public and an opportunity for new technology.

Text Source: Evening Sun, February 13, 2012

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