Preserving the Heritage of the Battle of Gettysburg
The Gettysburg Foundation’s mission, in partnership with the National Park Service (NPS), is to enhance the preservation and understanding of the heritage and lasting significance of Gettysburg and its national parks. The Foundation focuses its work primarily on the battle of Gettysburg and its context in the American Civil War, as well as President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Assistance is also given to occasionally support the Eisenhower National Historic Site, President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s residence in the Gettysburg community.
The Gettysburg Foundation is a result of the merging of two active groups dedicated to preserving Gettysburg’s history: the Gettysburg National Battlefield Museum Foundation and the Friends of the National Parks at Gettysburg. The Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization.
The Gettysburg National Battlefield Museum Foundation was established in 1998. Working with the National Park Service, it was established to raise the funds needed to build a new Museum and Visitor Center; to ensure the preservation of an extensive collection of Civil War-era archival materials, objects and artifacts; to conserve the massive Gettysburg Cyclorama painting; and to return portions of the battlefield to their 1863 appearance.
The Friends of the National Parks at Gettysburg was started in 1989 by a small group of concerned citizens who wanted to help preserve the Gettysburg National Military Park and the Eisenhower National Historic Site. After its founding, the Friends became a national leader in battlefield landscape preservation, land protection, monument restoration, and education.
The two organizations merged, becoming the Gettysburg Foundation, in mid-2006. The Foundation’s innovative non-profit partnership with the National Park Service (NPS) has been called a model for the entire NPS, combining the academic legacy, interpretive expertise, and preservation resources of the NPS with the valuable public outreach capabilities, and private financial support of the Gettysburg Foundation. Today, the Foundation has nearly 20,000 members, or “friends.”
Each year, more than a million people visit the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center, including more than 100,000 school children who come from all over the country. The Foundation has more than 17,500 members around the country and the world. The Gettysburg National Military Park Museum & Visitor Center is one of the only privately owned and privately funded Visitor Centers in the national park system.
The Gettysburg Foundation’s broad preservation mission includes work in land preservation, battlefield rehabilitation to enhance interpretation of the story of the battle of Gettysburg, monument and cannon preservation, artifact preservation and education. Examples include but are not limited to:
- Over $105 million was raised for the design and construction of the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center. This 139,000 state-of-the-art square foot facility opened in 2008 and is LEED Gold certified. It is the only privately-owned and operated visitor center in the entire national park system. With a budget of nearly $13 million, all operational funding is generated from several revenue streams; the Foundation does not rely on public funding for operations. Nearly 1 million people visit the facility each year.
- Between 1989 and mid-2006, nearly 500 acres of battlefield and historic land were acquired for donation to the park, or had easements placed on them that were donated to the park.
- Miles of utility lines were buried, and demolition of non-historic structures, the National Tower and the old Cyclorama building allowed for restoration of the landscape to its 1863 appearance.
- The Foundation acquired the 80-acre George Spangler farm in 2008, site of the 11th Corps hospital and where Confederate General Lewis Armistead died. Demolition of non-historic structures at the farm occurred in 2012, restoration of summer kitchen in 2013, and interpretive programs for the public started in 2013.
- The “Treasures of the Civil War” special exhibit opened June 2013 for three to five years with artifacts never before displayed in Gettysburg that reflect the life and the story of 13 legendary leaders of the Civil War.
Museum and Visitor Center Quick Facts
- Facility size: 139,000 square feet
Facility cost: $103 million; completed in 2008
- $48 million: privately raised
- $15 million: Federal
- $20 million: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
- $20 million: bonds
- One of only four LEED Gold certified museum facilities in the country at the time it was built; remains only LEED Gold certified museum in Pennsylvania.
Approximate Annual Operating Budget for Museum and Visitor Center
Revenue approx. $13 million From ticket sales, tours, Museum Bookstore and Refreshment Saloon, rental income, other
Expenses approx. $13 million Includes but not limited to Museum & Visitor Center operations, program services, debt payments, salaries & benefits, information technology, endowment and reserve fund payments, donation to National Park Service, and depreciation, NPS program support, and other
Approximate Annual Budget for Membership and Development
Revenue approx. $2 million From Membership dues, member programs, donations, sponsorships, leadership program, Rupp House History Center admission, other
Expenses approx. $2 million Includes but is not limited to Rupp House operations and special programming, salaries & benefits, NPS programs and projects, member programs and projects, appeals, newsletter, other
Additional fundraising goals include: 5-year $50 million campaign for projects specifically benefitting Gettysburg National Military Park relating to preservation, education and acquisition. Projects are agreed upon between the Park Superintendent and Foundation President.
The Gettysburg Foundation has embarked on a five-year effort to build support in three critical areas that will sustain not only the battlefield, but also the message of sacrifice, ideals and reconciliation that can be found on the fields of Gettysburg.
Priceless artifacts, land, and buildings must be cared for and restored by expert hands. Without preservation, the story will be lost and the lessons soon forgotten.
Vital land parcels, buildings, and artifacts must be acquired. These acquisitions will protect view sheds and landscapes, eliminate destruction of one-of-a-kind artifacts, and will allow the National Park Service to properly restore and interpret this historic place.
Education & Leadership
Education is a key element in the Foundation’s mission. Through its education and leadership programs, the Foundation preserves the story of the Battle of Gettysburg and the timeless meaning of individual sacrifice and teamwork first taught here in 1863. In addition, the Foundation’s leadership programs bring the battlefield to life for colleges, corporations, and businesses through experiential learning.