Thursday, November 26, 2015

Clock ticks on Gettysburg electric map auction

The federal government has finally freed Gettysburg battlefield's famed Electric Map. Let the bidding begin.

Clock ticks on Gettysburg electric map auction



The federal government has finally freed Gettysburg battlefield's famed Electric Map. Let the bidding begin.

After a years-long tug-of-war over its fate, the National Park Service got the green light to auction off the giant plaster map, which delighted generations of visitors before being chopped up and thrown into storage after the new museum opened four years ago.

The General Services Administration listed it on its online auction site on Friday. Bids close on Sept. 14.

Number of bids as of Monday night? Zero.

For an object that many consider a beloved piece of Americana, the listing on the GSA site could not be more unflattering. The 30-foot-square map is described as asbestos-laden "scrap."

Simple and homespun in design, the map was a central attraction at the battlefield museum for 45 years, providing a helpful overview before touring the park.

In a darkened hall, visitors watched hundreds of multi-colored lights blink and flash to illustrate troop movement, while a 20-minute narration played.

The map was replaced in the new museum and vistors center by a tri-screen movie narrated by Morgan Freeman and several high-tech exhibits that depict troop movement over the three-day battle.

But many fans say nothing conveys progression of the battle over its three-day duration like the old-time electric map.

Brendan Synnamon, president of the Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association, was among those lobbying to save the map. He told the Evening Sun of Hanover that his group likely couldn't raise the funds to buy and transport the 12-ton map, but would like to work with potential buyers.

Then there's the thousands it will require to clean up the asbestos in the plaster.

The map was the creation of Joseph Rosensteel, a historian and Civil War artifact collector whose family home was the battlefield's museum for decades before the Rosensteels sold it to the park service in the 1970s.

His daughter, Emily Rosensteel O'Neil, was not pleased when she learned that the map would be auctioned. O'Neil told the Inquirer in June that she wanted her father's map to stay in the Gettysburg park.

"When my family sold the museum and the map, we never expected this type of end to my father's legacy," she said. "Outdated it may be, but it was supposed to remain under the care of the Department of the Interior."

O'Neil said at the very least she would like to see her father's creation to stay in the Gettysburg area.





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Commonwealth Confidential gives you regularly updated coverage of the state legislature, the governor and the workings of the state bureaucracy. It is written by Angela Couloumbis in the Inquirer's Harrisburg bureau, based in the statehouse, and by the newspaper's far-flung campaign reporters.

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