2012-05-31 / Family

Gettysburg Map May Be Auctioned – Or Destroyed

GETTYSBURG, Pa. (AP) – Officials say they plan to try to auction off a large electric battlefield map at Gettysburg that for decades helped visitors understand the crucial Civil War battle, but they may be forced to destroy it.

The National Park Service pulled the plug on the 1960sera device at Gettysburg National Military Park in 2008 after opening a new museum and visitor center. The map, which had been used for 70 years, has been in storage ever since.

Park officials last month asked the federal government to let it auction the map to the highest bidder, The Philadelphia Inquirer said. But they must first get a waiver from the General Services Administration because the map contains asbestos

– and without such a waiver, officials say, the map will be destroyed.

Some fans who thought the map was already history were surprised to hear that it might be resurrected.

“I thought it was dead and buried,’’ said John Dekeles, of Post Falls, Idaho, who filmed one of the last map shows.

He and others launched efforts to save the device, drawing up plans to move it to a nearby site and petitioning the Smithsonian, West Point and the Naval Academy to adopt it. Despite their efforts, the map sits in four pieces in an airtight shipping container at an undisclosed location.

The map was created by Joseph Rosensteel, who grew up on the battlefield and whose family founded the park’s original museum. His grandfather collected artifacts as a teenager days after the battle while helping to bury bodies, and the thousands of items were the basis for the museum opened in the family farmhouse in 1921.

His grandson spent five years researching troop movements over the 6,000 acres and laying out his map with topographic features such as roads, waterways and orchards before the first electric map show opened in 1938. The current map was constructed in 1963 out of plaster and concrete and the shows were performed in an auditorium built to house it for the battle’s 100th anniversary commemoration.

Park officials were divided over whether there should be a new place for the map in the new museum a mile away.

“We finally came to the conclusion that it was outdated as an interpretive device,’’ park spokeswoman Katie Lawhon said.

Fans, however, say the new Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center doesn’t provide visitors with the same comprehensive overview that the old-fashioned map did, despite its galleries, interactive exhibits, the restored Cyclorama painting and a triplescreen movie narrated by actor Morgan Freeman.

“It concisely interprets and orients people; it’s always been good at that," said Curt Musselman, president of the Historic Gettysburg-Adams County group, who now makes maps for the park service and credits with the map in part for his decision to become a cartographer. “And for all the millions, the museum does not have such a concise or effective orientation.’’

Park officials, however, want the map auctioned off quickly so they can concentrate on preparing for events for the battle’s 150th anniversary next year, Lawhon said.

“We want to move forward and focus on 2013,’’ she said.

Dekeles, who saw the map on trips to the battlefield when he and his family made annual trips to a train show in nearby York, bought the domain name www.savetheelectricmap.co m when he found the map was to be retired and filmed the show with night vision equipment.

He said he’d like to see the map restored as it was in a new location modeled on the old one.

“Like a phoenix rising from the ashes and presented in a way that shows the respect it deserves,’’ he said. “The ideal thing would be to put it back as close as it was to protect the dignity and history, like you are walking into 1963.’’

Return to top