Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Living History

When I was a a kid, I found history boring.  I tried to like it, but all the names, places, and dates just seemed to blend together for me.  I would memorize the details just long enough to write the paper and ace the test, then I would forget it. 

Then one day almost sixteen years ago we moved to Baltimore.  We didn't really expect to live out this way long and we visited as many historical sites as we could to live up our time here.  In the process of those weekend outings we gradually fell in love with the area and the history that came with it.  All the random tidbits I remembered from my youth suddenly started connecting together and making sense to me.   In the decade and a half since moving to the area, our family has visited many amazing places all over the eastern US--from Williamsburg to Boston.   

History to my kids is not the same as history was to me as a young student.   While I certainly read about  Jamestown settlement in a book, it didn't mean much to me.  In fourth grade my kids read about it, then visit it, watch reenactments, and they come back with a meaningful connection and memory that most kids never get to experience.  During their elementary years, they visit early American, Revolutionary War, and Civil War sites all over the area, taking separate trips to Richmond, Jamestown/Yorktown, Philadelphia, Baltimore, DC, and Gettysburg. 

They walk onto replicas of the Mayflower.  They see the Liberty Bell in person.  They visit Abraham Lincoln's cottage.  They walk through the halls of George Washington's home at Mt. Vernon and meet actors dressed in period costume who demonstrate what life was like during Washington's time.   They sit in the very hall where our Founding Fathers risked everything and penned the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.  They drive through the fields of Gettysburg and leave with a greater understanding of the importance of the events that happened there.   They get to taste history in a way that most people never do. 

Yesterday I accompanied Emma on a field trip to Gettysburg.  Although I had been there many times before, we saw places I had never before visited and  I was especially struck at how meaningful the events were that transpired there. 

It's a fairly rural area, unremarkable by most standards, and most likely easily forgotten except for the events that transpired there in July 1863.  Now the fields are dotted with memorials, cannons, and graves. Buildings throughout the town are marked with plaques and museums are devoted to telling the world about what transpired there.
I felt blessed to be there with Emma and blessed to be reminded at what series of miracles it took to preserve this land we live in.

How grateful I am for the men and women who have risked their lives over the years to defend our freedom. 
I am proud to be an American and proud to have kids that are learning from an early age what a privilege that is!


What to see in Gettysburg:

Gettysburg Museum and Visitor's Center (make time for the Cyclorama):   This museum is reminiscent of the Smithsonians and is very well done.   It may be a little boring for young kids, but the Cyclorama program is very cool.  It's a gigantic painting (shown in the last picture above) that encircles an entire room.  They have props set up around it that make it hard to tell where the props end and the painting begins.  They use lights and sounds with the painting to tell the story of Gettysburg.  It was the first time I'd ever seen it and I highly recommend it. 

Gettysburg Wax Museum:  The wax figures are a tad creepy looking (especially their eyes), but I liked how the figures were shown in many scenes leading up to and including the battle of Gettysburg.  It was perfect for someone who finds normal museums somewhat boring.  They also had a movie/wax figure enactment that was pretty cool to watch.  I liked hearing actors enact the Gettysburg address. 

Gettysburg Auto Tour:  You can either buy a cd from the visitors' center or even hire a tour guide to come into your car (this would be super cool) and you drive around the sites of Gettysburg while they are explained.  The cd tells you which way to turn and it's pretty hard to get lost. 


Beth said...

I always love taking the double decker bus with the tour guide! And nothing beats homemade ice cream on the town square when it's hot!

Steve-Rosanna said...

We have driven past many times and never stopped. Sadly. Not sure why, but I have never felt and affinity towards the civil war. Watching Lincoln may have changed that.

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