on October 29, 2008
The new museum and visitor center at Gettysburg National Military Park opened in the spring of 2008. Through film, artifacts, and interactive displays visitors will better understand the importance of what happened here in 1863. The large lobby is very accommodating for the many large groups, families and bus tours that visit each year. There are a refreshment area, bookstore and museum shop, and the essential restrooms. Information desks and ticket counters complete the area - maps, tickets for the museum and Eisenhower home, and booking a battlefield guide can be done here.In the busy season, it is good to arrive early in the day, or purchase your museum tickets the previous day, to avoid long lines and possible sell outs. You must purchase timed tickets for the film and cyclorama.The new feature film narrated by Morgan Freeman is a powerful statement about the events leading up to the conflict, the battle itself, the aftermath and the effects on our country. Following the video, visitors take the escalator up to the viewing area of the Gettysburg cyclorama painting. Originally painted by Paul Philippoteaux in 1884, this massive circular artwork was just restored and reassembled. Using sound effects and lighting, the 3-D diorama comes to life depicting Picket's Charge.Upon leaving the cyclorama, visitors enter the museum - 11 galleries explaining the Civil War and Gettysburg battle, Lincoln's famous address, and the overall effects on the north and south. There is a good mixture of audio, video, and artifacts to appeal to all ages and level of interest. Following the museum visit, we toured the battlefield. There are many options for this - licensed guide who drives your car, bus tour, audio tour, self-guided maps/signs, or walking. We opted for the CD audio in our car; it comes with a comprehensive guide book. It took at least 3 hours to do this tour due to the many tourists and stopping to view monuments and other areas. Personally, the CD provided more information than I wanted to know, but for a Civil War enthusiast it was perfect. Using the map, CD, numbered signs and stops, the tour describes the significant action in the 3 days of the battle. One of the most interesting areas was Devil's Den and Little Round Top.At the end of our tour, we visited the Soldiers' National Cemetery. There is a monument at the site of Lincoln's Gettysburg address.
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