Lights Out for the Electric Map
Like many large map installations, the Electric Map of the Battle of Gettysburg has gone the way of the dodo. The 30×30-foot map has been illustrating troop movements during the battle using more than 600 light bulbs since it opened 45 years ago, but there’s no room for it in the new museum opening in Gettysburg National Military Park; it closed, apparently for good, last month, and will be put into storage when the old museum building is demolished next year. In response, a campaign has sprung up to save the Electric Map. News coverage: Baltimore Sun, CNN, Penn Live, York Daily Record.
I have mixed feelings about this. It’s sad to see any large map installation go, but park officials are basically correct: the map has become a bit of a relic of a former time. The campaign has posted videos of the Electric Map presentation, which is nearly 30 minutes long. Let’s be honest: nowadays, that’s a bit much to sit through in a darkened room, watching blinking lights and listening to a recorded narration, especially when you pay for a ticket to do so. It’s a victim of more sophisticated presentation technology; no one, after all, watches film strips any more either. But I’m sure a place can be found for it somewhere.