In a place so rich in history, we don’t often get the chance to use our imaginations.
Generally, when we discuss history, we stick to facts—documented and authenticated. Sure, sometimes we indulge ourselves with thoughts of “what if.” What if Brig. General Gouverneur Warren had failed to gather support for the defense of Little Round Top? What if Confederate Lt. General Richard Ewell had found it “practical” to take Cemetery Hill? What if General Robert E. Lee had decided against a massive third day assault?
We can use our imagination, and then we are quickly reeled back in by facts in history.
With the Gettysburg Foundation’s recent opening of Children of Gettysburg 1863 in the former Rupp House History Center, we are offering a new outlet for creativity and imagination that are all-inspired by history. Designed for children from kindergarten to fifth grade, Children of Gettysburg 1863 provides children the opportunity to engage with and explore interactive exhibits while learning about history and the significance of Gettysburg.
Children of Gettysburg 1863 opened over the Labor Day weekend. Immediately, the young visitors began using their imaginations and learning. Inspired by real-life stories of children living in Gettysburg during the battle, our opening-day adult visitors and donors recognized the power of history and the creativity of imagination. In this “interactive adventure for young historians,” young guests pumped imaginary water, dutifully dressed wounds of a replica soldier, hid from an unseen approaching army and donned a top hat to deliver the Gettysburg Address to an imaginary audience.
Imagination and history are finding common ground in Gettysburg.
The ribbon cutting and grand opening brought together many of the adults whose efforts made Children of Gettysburg 1863 possible, including lead gallery sponsors Ford Motor Company Fund and David and Sherri Malgee. Representing Ford Motor Company Fund, Manager of Government Relations at Ford Motor Company Doug Messana participated in the ribbon cutting along with his daughter, Quinn, who was among the first children who explored and interacted with the exhibits in the new museum.
For the Malgees, this is a continuation of a life-long love for history, as well as a special dedication to the memory of their late son Geoff. We thank David and Sherri for their desire to share that love. Many young visitors will enter the doors of Children of Gettysburg 1863 with wonder and delight to experience the interactive adventure in Gettysburg’s most family-friendly children’s history museum.
To the many individuals and organizations who made Children of Gettysburg 1863 possible, we are truly grateful. From the expressions and actions of our first visitors, the results of your efforts are an overwhelming success. These guests engage and interact with scenes from our history. They examine, learn and think. They even have fun.
Visiting Gettysburg as a boy, I spent many hours exploring the battlefield. It is nice to now have a place centered around children to explore Gettysburg and its important history. I wish such an opportunity would have been available to me all those years ago.
Imagination opens doors for a life-long love of history. With Children of Gettysburg 1863, our hope is that new generations will also take up the mantle to protect and preserve our history and learn lessons from the past.
What if these Gettysburg-inspired young historians grow up and apply the lessons of Gettysburg in what they do?
We can only imagine.
Wayne E. Motts
President and CEO, Gettysburg Foundation
First appeared in the Gettysburg Foundation's column in the Sept. 27, 2021, edition of the Gettysburg Times.