Heritage is defined in the dictionary as, “something transmitted by or acquired from a predecessor” or “something possessed as a result of one’s natural situation or birth.”
Those are some broad definitions.
When you think about “heritage,” what do you think about? We have a national heritage, of course, and Gettysburg plays an important role in that heritage. But if you think on a smaller scale, you realize that we ALL have our own heritage. Each one of us a history—a story—that helps define us.
In 2019, we built on our heritage and our story as we welcomed thousands of visitors from near and far and enjoyed these highlights:
• C-SPAN and the Pennsylvania Cable News network BOTH recorded our book talks over the Battle anniversary.
• We were the official naming sponsor for A Gettysburg Christmas Festival and were wowed by a sound and light show that featured fireworks—from our roof!
• Formed a partnership with Gettysburg’s Licensed Battlefield Guides so we can offer their amazing services to our visitors—as the only official online booking venue.
• Continued to work with partners such as the American Battlefield Trust, the National Park Service and the Strawberry Hill Foundation as well as with leadership programs, tour operators, school groups and community leaders.
• Welcomed thousands of visitors during some of Gettysburg’s biggest events, including the Battle anniversary, Bike Week, the Remembrance Day parade and A Gettysburg Christmas Festival
And perhaps biggest highlight of all:
• We became a nonprofit organization, partnering with the Gettysburg Nature Alliance to forge a bond between the concepts of heritage and habitat—realizing that we can’t have one without the other.
Our mission, with the Nature Alliance, is to focus on the relationship between habitat and heritage and educate about Gettysburg and our collective natural and historic resources. We never want to lose sight of our rich history that shapes our heritage. But we do want to expand our reach, and help people understand how connected we really are and how our habitat and our heritage really are dependent upon each other.
At the Gettysburg Heritage Center in 2020, we want to renew our focus on heritage and explore the larger meaning of that word, which includes habitat. At our location at 297 Steinwehr Avenue, you can learn about the heritage of the Battle of Gettysburg as seen through the stories of the people who lived here during that time. Their stories are harrowing and unimaginable to many of us. But we all have our stories. This year, we’re going to learn as many of those stories as we can—simply by asking people. We want to understand different perspectives. We want to know our visitors and our community. We want to build our own heritage and ensure that we are a sustainable asset to our amazing community.
Specifically, in 2020 we will:
• Enhance the center’s exhibits by focusing on visitor interaction and our visitors’ heritages
• Add to the center’s exhibits to continue the heritage of Gettysburg’s 1863 citizens, whose stories offer relevance and lessons in empathy
• Build our nonprofit through memberships and partnerships
• Build on the concepts of habitat and heritage and demonstrate, through exclusive programming, the relationship between the two
• Get to know our community and our visitors by building upon our What’s Your Story? campaign
• Continue our commitment to exemplary customer service
• Continue to serve as the official “Gettysburg Starts Here” headquarters
What do we mean by “Gettysburg Starts Here”?
We want to be the answer to arguably the number-one question people ask upon arrival to town: “Where do I start?” Yes, we are a small town. But we also have a lot to see and do. We want the community and visitors to know that we exist as a resource—many people who live here have never visited the museums or attractions, and that is a common occurrence. Humans love to travel, but often we forget about our own backyard! We’re here to help with that, offering a comfortable atmosphere and personal attention.
We want to be the headquarters for anyone exploring Gettysburg.
We currently offer a headquarters for the following:
• A museum focusing on Gettysburg’s civilians during the battle
• An award-winning orientation film produced by the American Battlefield Trust
• A popular gift shop and even more popular bookstore
• Licensed Battlefield Guided tours for individuals and groups
• GettyPeds tours (featuring the new Model T!)
• Victorian Carriage Company and Horse Tours of Gettysburg tours
• Special Events including book talks, author appearances, living history, and Night at the Museum program
• Visitor information—we’re happy to help with any questions!
• Ample, free parking for guest
• A location that is within easy walking distance to restaurants, lodging and other attractions, including the Gettysburg National Cemetery, Cemetery Hill and the High Water Mark
We are a headquarters. We have a heritage and a dynamic habitat. And we want to help everyone understand our story and the stories of others. We look forward to welcoming you this year. (And remember: Gettysburg residents always receive free admission to our museum.)