Friday, August 31, 2012

NEWS---Lutheran Seminary At Gettysburg Creates Museum of Civilian Life, Battlefield Medicine; Price Tag-$15 Million

Lutheran Theological Seminary Outlines Civil War Museum Plans, Amy Stansbury, Evening Sun, August 29, 2012. 

In a town with plenty of history already on display, the Lutheran Theological Seminary plans a museum with more stories to tell, organizers said Wednesday evening at a public information session. The Seminary Ridge Museum, to be located in Schmucker Hall in Gettysburg, will focus on stories of the seminary and religious leaders, as well as those of doctors, nurses and soldiers, with an emphasis on interactive exhibits.

“Just about every inch of this museum will be public access,” said Barbara Franco, founding executive director of the Seminary Ridge Museum. “Even the offices will be offsite. We really want this to be a public place now.” The desire to make the entire building accessible to the public stems from the historical relevance of the place itself. During the battle it was used as a hospital and its cupola served as a lookout for General John Buford. After the museum opens that cupola will be available to the public, a long awaited moment for many Civil War buffs.

Of course the privilege will not come without a price. Cupola tickets will cost $20 each to compensate for the high cost of maintaining the structure. Regular adult admission to the museum will cost $9, senior citizen and student tickets will cost $7. Discount rates will also be available for large groups. “We are really looking to market this to families with children and school groups,” Franco said. “There will be lots of interactive exhibits for children to connect with the history. In an effort to make it more appealing toward children, the stories of the Zeigler family will be woven throughout Schmucker Hall. The Zeiglers lived in the building during the battle and two of the children left behind memoirs detailing what life was like during that time.

Two pathways will also be built throughout the seminary to deepen those historical connections. Both have been funded by federal grants and will be finished in time for the museums grand opening July 1, 2013.  On July 1, 1863 at 10 oclock the first artillery fire was heard on the ridge, Franco said. What better time to cut the ribbon and open the museum. So far, the museum is on track to be finished in time for the 150th celebration. It is on time and on budget and construction is expected to be completed by October. 

One hundred eighty seven years ago the seminary came to Gettysburg because the town offered it the most support, Michael Cooper-White, president of the Lutheran Theological Seminary said. We have always tried to be a part of the community and what we are doing today is part of that vision. Once complete, Schmucker Hall will utilize a geothermal heating system as part of that certification. The staff will work toward receiving a silver LEED certification for the building, identifying it as an environmentally friendly and sustainable piece of architecture. 

For a historic building to receive a silver LEED certification is pretty incredible, Franco said. But that is just another part of the seminarys long term plans. The museum will then prepare for a soft opening in April, allowing a limited number of preview tours to pass through Schmucker Hall before the grand opening in July.  In the end, the project will cost $15 million, financed by the seminarys fundraising efforts.  So far, $10 million have been raised. 

That money will go toward more than just the preservation of Schmucker Hall. 
Parking is in short supply at the seminary, and museum plans include the addition of 100 new parking spaces to be installed throughout the campus.  In order to fix the parking problem without destroying too much green space, the seminary will spread out parking across a larger area and disperse vegetated islands throughout the lots. 

This will create a tree canopy across the area, adding more green space and hiding the cars, John Spangler, president of the Seminary Ridge Historic Preservation Foundation said. Amidst concerns that the additional parking spaces would disturb sacred ground where the Confederate last stand was fought, Spangler reminded the public that the probable location of the barricades used in battle was already paved over by tennis courts many years ago.  But as part of this construction, we will be removing those tennis courts and recreating a portion of those barricades, Spangler said. 

For Cooper-White, sharing this history with the public is the main goal and he is excited to see it finally come to fruition.  We always say that we are at the crossroads of history and hope, Cooper-White said. And I think with this we are helping to play out that vision. 

Text and Image Source:  Evening Sun

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