On-line Book
Cover book to Battling for Manassas: The Fifty-Year Preservation Struggle at Manassas National Battlefield Park. [Image of cannon in the battlefield]
Battling for Manassas: The Fifty-Year Preservation Struggle at Manassas National Battlefield Park


Table of Contents




Chapter 1

Chapter 2

current topic Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11


Appendix I

Appendix II

Appendix III

Appendix IV

Appendix V (omitted from on-line edition)

Appendix VI

Appendix VII

Appendix VIII

Chapter 3
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Settling in

Early Interpretive Efforts

To facilitate decisions on the size and shape of the museum building, Hanson prepared a preliminary museum development plan in 1939. This outline, written before the national battlefield park had been officially designated, embodies the original design work for the proposed 10,000-acre Bull Run Recreational Demonstration Area project. Although not implemented, the museum plan still warrants careful examination because it reflects ideas of what the museum and the national park should provide visitors.

The interpretive focus rested on the two battles fought within the intended park boundaries. Devices for explaining strategies employed by the Union and Confederate armies, the tactical movements used by individual commanders, and the resulting losses sustained and victories won by the opposing sides were key to the museum's interpretive program. Placing a context around these central points was also important, so that visitors understood the Manassas battles within the overall Civil War experience. [17]

Additional factors, such as expected visitation, overall park interpretive program, and coordination with other area museums, influenced the particular subjects and level of detail for the display cases and panels. Hanson noted that the park's location along a main highway in a populous region close to the nation's capital would attract motorists who might stop on their way to other destinations. These casual visitors, whom Hanson considered the largest proportion of park users, demanded a "compact, simple, colorful digest" of the battle stories, which they could read and understand within two hours, the projected average stay for this group. For the smaller numbers of visitors with special interests in Civil War campaigns or in relatives who may have fought at Manassas, Hanson envisioned more individual contact with Park Service representatives. [18]

Interpretation at the Manassas National Battlefield Park museum complemented information services planned throughout the park and at neighboring national parks. The land itself where the North and South had battled provided an important educational tool that distinguished the park from any other resource or museum, and the Park Service intended to have a number of programs centering on the land. Using historical markers, visitors could take a self-guided battlefield tour. Projected to total fifteen to twenty miles with large portions over one-way dirt roads in the park, the route would cover both battles and fortifications located near Centreville. Historians assigned to five planned contact stations located at strategic points around the park would direct. travelers and answer questions. Groups making special requests could take guided tours. The Park Service also expected to coordinate museum displays at Fredericksburg and other parks so that visitors could draw parallels and not see duplicated information. [19]

In consideration of these factors, Hanson suggested building a museum that would hold about thirty separate exhibits grouped together in four main subject areas: the geographical setting of the battles, First Manassas, Second Manassas, and the war in northern Virginia. Displays of weapons or uniforms would carefully connect the items to the larger interpretive story and so avoid the appearance of being merely relic cases. Maps, including animated and relief, along with panels and a diorama would enliven the presentation and encapsulate an array of complex information. A room with a projector and lecture space would allow for group presentations. [20]

With its heavy concentration on troop movements, the museum plan devoted little attention to the social and economic aspects of the Manassas battles. Hanson proposed two exhibits describing small prosperous plantations in northern Virginia before and after the war, showing the absence of men, destruction of crops, and the commandeering of livestock. Hanson did not address other questions about the effects of the battles on the slave populations and white women and children living on the plantations, subjects that gained increased public attention as a result of social movements in the 1960s. The National Park Service expected to attract white visitors interested in the battles themselves and thus directed its story to this audience. [21]

Causes of the Civil War also did not find expression in the museum plan. While contemporary historiography had addressed issues such as the polarization of North and South over slavery, states' rights, economic considerations, and international relations, the Park Service chose to focus on military maneuvers. In this way, the federal government did not antagonize its northern and southern visitors by discussing contentious issues. [22]

CONTINUED continued


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