The Gettysburg Seminary Ridge Museum opened as a legacy project of the 150th Civil War anniversary. The museum tells a Civil War story that is unique to Gettysburg using the historic building as the central physical artifact in interpreting complex and emotional ideas. Issues like religion and slavery are featured in the museum, subjects that are not usually addressed in Civil War exhibitions.
The exhibit “Voices of Duty and Devotion” interprets the pivotal first day of the Battle of Gettysburg on Seminary Ridge, the care of the wounded, the human suffering that took place within the Seminary during its use as a Civil War field hospital, and the moral, civic, and spiritual debates of the Civil War era. The three floors of exhibitions are unified by the voices and personal testimonies of historical figures within the setting of a historic place and with direct connections to historical events. Hands-on interactives throughout the museum and a one-mile outdoor walking trail help visitors engage in diverse ways with the history of Seminary Ridge before, during and after the battle.
Renovation of the seminary building preserves one of the major artifacts of the Battle of Gettysburg. The iconic cupola provides the view that General John Buford used to formulate his strategy for July 1st and secure the Union position on Cemetery Hill. The original material of floors, windows, doorways and walls were preserved. During renovation, exterior archaeology and internal construction revealed historical evidence of artillery positions, Civil War letters addressed to patients, “concealed” shoes placed during earlier renovations, and remnants from the daily life of seminarians. The rehabilitation of the building updates structural and environmental controls that insure its continuing use and historical value.
Within the walls of the building where these events transpired, voices of history come to life to educate new generations about human conflict, causes and consequences of war, and the American spirit. Working with local, national, and international partners the museum explores broad Civil War themes of slavery and religion and the role of African Americans and women. These themes have relevance for underserved and neglected audiences and offer new opportunities to develop new and more diverse perspectives of Civil War history.