Friday, August 02, 2013

Battlefield Military Museum: a review

As you are leaving Gettysburg on the Baltimore Pike, just as you pass  Evergreen Cemetery, you will encounter on your left an imposing brick structure with the sign Battlefield Military Museum.  Frequent visitors to Gettysburg may have driven past it many times without giving it a thought;  next trip, however, its definitely worth stopping by for a visit.



Let me say just a couple of things before we get started; the first is that as I was shooting through glass most of these photos don't do justice to the objects in the cases; the other thing worth mentioning is that I was a museum curator for a dozen years at a very large midwestern museum, and although I'm not a snob I am aware of "best practices" in the museum industry.  So let's get started.

The Museum has three floors, two of which are open to the public.  The lower (below ground) level is dedicated to collections spanning the World Wars and will be profiled over in my helmet blog.  The focus of the first floor is the American Civil War and the post-Civil War era.  

The museum is idiosyncratic and very much reflective of the collecting tastes of its owner and proprietor.  With over ten thousand objects on display this museum truly is "one man's vision" and is obviously a labor of love that has taken many, many years to bring to fruition.



The galleries are shotgun-style with exhibit cases lining the walls with additional casework down the middle of the wide aisle.  Museum conservators be warned; the galleries have much too much light for museum standards, but it certainly does make it easy for visitor to drink in the wealth of materials before them.  As a matter of fact there is little about this museum that will meet with the approval of a museum conservator; visitors, on the other hand...


find themselves engrossed.

Upon entering the main gallery one is immediately struck by the richness of the collection, the wealth of original objects, many with distinguished provenance.

Like, for instance...


Custer's boots.



Although the Civil War is the focus of this gallery...



there are many choice post-war artifacts as well, including...


 this gorgeous quartet of 1881 helmets; from left to right 7th Cavalry, Artillery, Indian Scouts, and 1st Infantry. (yes I know, the helmet on the far left isn't an 1881, its an earlier incarnation from the 70's)


Much of the signage and labels are very professionally done, though many others are hand lettered, and some are pretty old-school...



and frequently stuck directly onto the artifact - ouch!

There is also a nice representation of veteran and GAR materials, including...


uniform items and...


commemorative medals and ribbons.



Note that some of the mannequins are right out of GQ magazine (killer cheekbones).


I was really surprised by the wealth of Confederate items on display including this hat in a remarkable state of preservation...



Several rebel uniforms are on display... 


including this really cool battle shirt.


The firearms collection is representative rather than comprehensive.


On display is this remarkable set of crutches with the initials and unit of the owner 
carved into the wood.



Despite its conservational shortcomings, the museum is a gem and I'd highly recommend you take it in on your next visit to Gettysburg.


From just north of Boonsboro (and on a two-week vacation),

Ranger Mannie




2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Really neat. Thanks for sharing, Ranger Mannie. Noel H.

Anonymous said...

cool place was there as a kid in the 70's and rediscovered the place recently