Gettysburg’s Dramatic Memory

By Emma Murphy ’15

I was excited to see the first experimental showing of the documentary Hallowed Ground on Thursday, November 14th. The movie focused on many main characters and included the history of a few physical sites. The first character, a Lincoln impersonator, held a deep passion for the time period and the 16th president which kept him going even through economic hardship. His story is symbolic of the difficulties between rivaling definitions of the Civil War.

A large portion of the film included a father-son story of southern Lost Cause sentiment and old time, white supremacist race relations. To offset the radical nature of these Sons of Confederate Veterans, Hallowed Ground featured the narrative of a battlefield guide who argued that the Civil War started over the issue of slavery. These two stories exemplified the constant battle between people who have a connection to the Civil War, whether through ancestors or just auxiliary obsessions.

Cyclorama demo

Also included in the documentary is the dramatic struggle over the old cyclorama building and its demolition. The building could also be considered a monument, the film argued. It was a piece of commemorative architecture that was as important to understanding the history of memory as the various regimental monuments that dot the landscape.

The memory of Gettysburg in the Civil War is still a hot topic in today’s society and the way in which people engage with this memory is multifaceted, especially during the sesquicentennial commemorations. Though the movie focused on many of the ways people today engage with memory, the film missed an opportunity to focus on the sesquicentennial events that took place throughout 2013. Overall, the film could have benefitted from a wider array of stories — those of locals and various visitors. This would help round out the more radical aspects of the film and display how Civil War memory impacts people from across the nation.


Image:

“Neutra’s Gettysburg Cyclorama Demolished.” Architect’s Newspaper Blog.

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