Well here it is: the final result of my tour of the Commemorations of the Battle of Gettysburg. What began as a tour of the battlefield quickly shaped into a more specific way of approaching the battle: through the commemorations of states, individuals, and moments of the battle itself. Looking into the aspects of the battle that people have deemed worthy of recognizing for eternity presents what I feel is a representation of how the Battle of Gettysburg is remembered in the past, present, and future.
My tour, made with and presented on HistoryPin, ended up having 36 stops along the way. I began to narrow the hundreds of monuments on the battlefield by choosing monuments to specific states involved in the conflict, and then I moved on to include some of the more notable figures involved. I chose a few other monuments based on their importance to the war, to the area, and to all of American history to round out my work. This can possibly be executed as a walking tour, but given the size of the battlefield, I would suggest taking a bike or a car. And bring your phone too- that’s the best way to access the tour!
I ran into a few obstacles with my research of the commemorations and these monuments. Not only were there few resources available regarding the monuments themselves, but there was next to no information on the actual commemorations other than dates, and in some cases, who funded the project and a bit on why it was made. This made things difficult in a way, and I relied on providing background information on the states, people, and events in each description as well as a brief overview of the commemoration itself. Hopefully, the information I have found is enough for my visitors, and I intend to continue to research this and update the pins as possible.
I also ran into issues with HistoryPin, or rather my expectations of the website, as I continued my research. A problem occurred when I needed to delete a pin from a tour I had created, so I contacted Jon, who is the Strategic Partnerships Director at HistoryPin, who was able to fix the problem not just for me, but for any user on the website. I ran into another issue where, once you’ve made a pin, you can’t change its format from text to picture or vice versa. This issue has proved to be a little more difficult for my new friend Jon, but it is something that he is still working on. You can also only have one picture to a pin, which made me choose more current pictures over some historical images so people on the tour would know what they are seeing. These troubles led to me making several different collections and tours, but in the end my final project was still completed, and the help from the HistoryPin operators was key to this.
Even with these issues, I feel that my final product is a success by any means. HistoryPin, despite its few flaws, proved to be a very valuable tool to use given its ease for people with little computer skills (ME) to use and the ability to contact the operators quickly and effectively, plus it’s free to use! I feel like I was able to present a tour that makes sense geographically and that has content that is both informative and interesting. This hopefully provides a free alternative to the government run tours or the paid tours of the battlefield that anyone with a mobile internet device can use.
That being said, I still have some work to do to make this project as effective as possible. I plan to post the below flier around some of the historical sites in Gettysburg to serve as a grassroots advertising campaign, and then after a few months, I’ll go back and conduct some research at the battlefield to see if anyone has heard about my tour. I’d also like to add more stops to the tour since there are many, many more monuments at the battlefield, and maybe even start a Facebook page for direct feedback from tour-goers. Hopefully, these steps can be completed in the not too distant future.
Overall, I feel that this experience has helped to teach me a lot about digital history and about myself as a digital historian. I learned that the sources and resources that you use are not always going to meet your needs/desires. I also learned that communication and interpersonal relationships between people working in the field & on a project are key, as others with different skills and ideas are able to help you on your journey. I learned that constructive criticisms & suggestions are very important to improving your product, both on my work and on the website I used. I learned a bit about what my colleagues in the Public History program have to deal with in creating exhibits, although nowhere near as detailed, and I feel like I got a glimpse into that aspect of history as well. I feel like this was a worthwhile experience that has produced a final project worth looking into if you’re ever in Gettysburg.
So that’s my project. Let me know what you all think! I can’t wait to see what everyone else came up with!