Special Collections Roadshow was created by the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College in the Spring of 2014. It showcases various artifacts from Special Collections at Gettysburg College. The seventh episode features Megan McNish ’16 comparing the housewife from Lewis Tway’s collection to another housewife we just received from Rev. Theodore Schlach’s new collection in Special Collections.
For your holiday enjoyment, our social media coordinator Megan McNish ’16 has put together a Buzzfeed quiz where you can figure out what role you would have played during the Civil War. Would you have served on the front lines or stayed at home and supported the war effort? Click here to take the quiz and find out!
And, if you missed it over Thanksgiving, she also made one about what Civil War food matches your personality (Don’t take it personally if you receive desiccated vegetables. Yours truly did as well.)
Happy holidays from the students and staff of the CWI!
In anticipation of Remembrance Day and Dedication Day this week, we have asked our Fellows why and how they commemorate the Civil War. Read Megan’s post below, then check back later in the week for more posts on commemoration and remembrance.
Commemoration of the Civil War has been a hot topic lately, with many discussing why and how it should and shouldn’t be done. As a student of Civil War history, I’m clearly biased in believing that the war I study should be commemorated, but, unlike many, my bias doesn’t come from the fact that I have an ancestor who fought in the Civil War. My ancestors came to the United States in the 1880s and 1890s from Scotland and settled in New Jersey and haven’t moved since. So why do I care about the Civil War? Why is it important to me that this country continue to commemorate a war that ended over 150 years ago? Continue reading “No Dog in the Fight: Commemorating the Civil War without an Ancestor”
When I sat down to write about working for the National Park Service, first as an intern through the Pohanka program and then this summer working as a seasonal employee, I thought it would be an easy task. It should be simple to write about something that you love, but it wasn’t. I wrote an entire blog post and then realized it just wasn’t right. It was bland and detached, entirely opposite of how I felt about my summer experiences. I’m passionate about public history and the work I have done at the parks, so much so that sometimes it is hard to articulate what makes it so special. How can I convey in words the very thing that drives me? How do I convey the responsibility and how it fills me with pride when someone trusts me with that responsibility? How do I convey the joy that fills me when I conduct programs for visitors? The success I feel when I can help a visitor see a new perspective? I finally decided that the best way to put into words how I feel is to relate some of my experiences with the NPS that illustrate what working there means to me.
I will never forget the day I received my first acceptance into the Pohanka program. I was a first-year student coming back from a field trip on the battlefield. As we sat in the vans on our way back to campus, I checked my email. The title to one read “Brian C. Pohanka Internship Program” and when I saw it my heart began to race. I opened the email and began to shake as I realized that I had been offered an internship at Appomattox Court House. I was filled with pride that, as a first-year student, I had been so lucky to be chosen for such an opportunity. Months later, as I sat in a hotel room the night before I was to move into my summer quarters, the weight of that responsibility on my shoulders was like that of the world itself. I was so unsure, so worried that I wouldn’t live up to the responsibility that had been presented to me. This summer, as I began my third summer with the Park Service, this time as a seasonal employee, I felt the weight of that responsibility all over again. I felt pride again when I received the email offering me the job that someone trusted me enough to hold the keys to our nation’s history. As I pinned my badge on my uniform for my first day of work I realized the excitement of being able to represent my country and its history every day. Continue reading “The Opportunity of a Lifetime: Working for the National Park Service”
Special Collections Roadshow was created by the Civil War Institute in the Spring of 2014. It showcases various artifacts from Special Collections at Gettysburg College. The sixth episode features Meg Sutter ’16 describing a canteen from Rev. Theodore Schlach’s new collection in Special Collections.
Nothing terrifies a public historian more than a question that comes out of left field. Whether it is a question that simply makes you want to laugh or has you wanting to raise your eyebrows, sometimes visitors just say the strangest things! That being said, this post is not in any way intended to be a criticism of such questions. Rather, it is meant as an examination of the thought process behind the question itself and how, as a public historian, one can answer those strange questions.
During my first summer as a front-line historian at Appomattox Court House (as part of the Civil War Institute’s Pohanka Internship program), I spent a good deal of my time in the McLean House. Though the structure standing today is not the original building, the home is decorated roughly as it would have been in the 1860s. One steamy Virginia afternoon, two young women came through the door. They were interested in the history of the house, so I shared the story of Lee’s surrender with them and encouraged them to explore the rest of the building. They made their way up the stairs and as the floor above me creaked with their movement, I heard giggling. I almost went to see if they had a question, but I decided to wait instead. When they returned downstairs, one of the women encouraged the other to ask her question. The other young woman turned to me and queried, “When did they invent toilet paper?” Continue reading ““When Did They Invent Toilet Paper?”: Satisfying the Unanswerable Questions”
I walked up to the customs officer and handed her my passport, which was opened to my student visa. When she asked for my letter of intent as to why I was entering the UK, I turned red. That letter was buried at the bottom of my extremely heavy carry-on. As I dug it out, I feared that she was probably thinking ‘what a dumb American.’ I managed to produce my papers and the questions began. “Where are you working?” she asked. “The American Museum in Britain,” I replied. “Where’s that?” she asked, sounding more than confused. “Bath,” I replied. “Well, who knew?” Really though, who knew that there is an American museum anywhere outside of, well, America? As an American studying for the semester in Bath, the city of all things Jane Austen, why did I choose to spend part of my semester at the American Museum?
First and foremost, the American Museum in Britain has an amazing collection of early American artifacts, folk art, and period rooms that have been recreated inside the museum. These collections include a better treatment of Native Americans than I have found in the average American history museum. This year’s exhibit in the main house also includes “Spirit Hawk Eye,” modern photographs of Native American culture by Heidi Laughton. The American Museum makes a concentrated effort to show more than just the sterilized history of the United States that has long been our national story.
In darkness the boat crept up the river, silent as death. The captain in charge was sure of himself, sure of the information on which he was acting and of those guiding him up the narrow river. The young woman, somewhere on the ship, was the most reliable woman in the region. As the sun rose over the horizon, the boats pulled up to the ferry dock and the soldiers departed. The slaves were ready and at first word flocked to the boats, pushing and shoving to make their way on board. In the chaos that followed, the two small boats managed to get away with close to 300 captives. After it was all over, newspapers announced the Combahee Ferry Raid’s success and its most famous participant, Harriet Tubman.
This subject may be familiar to some of you who follow the Compiler closely, as Becky Oakes wrote about the Combahee Ferry Raid a few years ago (see Becky’s post for a more thorough treatment of the event). It was undeniably an impressive feat. Tubman managed over the period of a few months to gather enough information to steal slaves right from the plantation and, though the event was fairly well known in its time, it is virtually absent from American historical memory today. Harriet Tubman’s role in the marginalized world of slaves is remembered, but her role in aiding the United States Military is all but forgotten.