Carroll County Times

New Seminary Ridge Museum to open July 1

GETTYSBURG, Pa. - When the Seminary Ridge Museum opens to the public, visitors will view subjects not focused on elsewhere in Gettysburg, including somewhat jarring depictions of what was seen in the building when it was used as a Civil War field hospital.
"This building was the largest field hospital at Gettysburg and it treated more than 600 wounded soldiers, both Union and Confederate, within these walls and on these grounds," according to museum Marketing Director Dru Anne Neil.
The Seminary Ridge Museum will open to the public July 1, exactly 150 years after the Battle of Gettysburg began. The museum dedicates three floors to its three main subjects -- the first day of the battle, care of the wounded soldiers and the issues of faith and freedom, Neil said.
Guests can also purchase an exclusive access cupola tour, which allows 10 people at a time to go with a guide up to the cupola that was used by Union Civil War General John Buford, commander of cavalry at the Battle of Gettysburg.
Buford used the cupola to survey the battlefield and look for approaching confederates and watch for his infantry reinforcements, Neil said.
The building itself, which first opened in 1832 and was the only building in existence for the Lutheran Theological Seminary of Gettysburg, is just as much of an artifact as the exhibits shown inside the building. Over the years, the building was also used for classrooms, dorms and was home to the Adams County, Pa., Historical Society before being transformed into the museum, Neil said.
"The building lends itself so well to being a place of education and preservation," she said. "We took a lot of care as we preserved the building."
For the general admission tour, visitors start with an orientation video in the lobby and then go to the fourth floor where they learn about the first day of the battle. It is suggested that people then go down to the third and finally the second floor before finishing the tour in the lobby. Each floor has a video explaining the floor's theme.
The rooms on each floor are filled with artifacts, recreations and quotes from those who lived through the battle.
The fourth floor contains a room designed to look like the cupola. It shows 1880s pictures to give guests an idea of what the landscape would have looked like during the Civil War. The pictures light up points of interest when visitors push a button at each photo.
During the war, a caretaking family --the Zieglers -- lived in the house and had young children. Those children left accounts of their experiences, which included writing letters for wounded soldiers, Neil said. The museum has interactive exhibits to show children what it would have been like to be a Ziegler child.
"We tried to put it on to their level," she said. "It's a hard subject matter for kids but we want to make it relevant for everybody."
On the third floor, which focuses on the care of the wounded, much consideration was given to how the lifelike exhibits should look. In one room, soldiers with bloody wounds are sprawled about. Another exhibit shows a surgeon who is about to amputate a soldier's leg.
"We tried to take a very realistic look without going too far," Neil said.
On display are the bones of an amputated hand, a knee joint and instruments used for surgery during that time.
The second floor of the museum is dedicated to the issues of faith and freedom. While the U.S. Colored Troops did not fight in the Battle of Gettysburg, a display is dedicated to the black population in Adams County at the time and the U.S. Colored Troops.
"The African-American experience at Gettysburg is a huge part of the story," she said. "It's a huge part of what happened here and the struggles they went through were absolutely terrifying."
Visitors get to pick up a rifle and knapsack so they can see first-hand the weight the soldiers had to carry for many miles. There are also chairs on display from Thaddeus Stevens' office in Gettysburg.
Stevens was a member of the United States House of Representatives from Pennsylvania and a leader of the Radical Republican faction of the Republican Party during the 1860s.
On that final floor, issues come full circle as guests look at the issues of reconciliation after war, explore what freedom means and look at the unfinished work of the Declaration of Independence, Neil said.
"We're actually going to ask people to write their thoughts down and we'll collect them," she said.
Touch screen computers on the second floor give people the chance to answer questions related to faith and freedom. The situations are ones that people of that time period dealt with.
"It gets into the moral dilemmas that people faced," she said. "People can pick what they think they would do and then it tells you what really happened."
Every floor of the museum relates back to President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and looks at issues that continue to shape our country, Neil said.
The museum was created as a partnership between the Adams County Historical Society, the Lutheran Theological Seminary of Gettysburg and the Seminary Ridge Historic Preservation Foundation. Diaries, records and other accounts from the historical society helped to make sure the museum is historically accurate and goes into as much detail as possible.
"We think people should come here because they really will have a better understanding of...why the battle happened," she said. "There's something amazing about being able to make that connection and stand in the exact spot where these events happened."