Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Has the Sesquicentennial of the U.S. Civil War Been a Failure?

Earlier this month The Wall Street Journal's Cameron McWhirter argued that the 150-Year Anniversary of the Civil War "has been disappointing so far."  He based his argument on the fact that the sale of Civil War relics and memorabilia is down, government funding has been limited, the number of re-enactments have dropped, and racial issues have brought unease. 

Jesse Marx, writing at The Week, has also pointed to the declining number of reenactors and re-enactments.

But Nick Sacco, writing at his blog "Exploring the Past" is not buying all of this negative press about the Sesquicentennial.  He writes:

...we should proceed with caution before deeming the entire commemoration a failure. Rather, we should consider the ways people are engaging with and learning about the war through their experiences in history classrooms and at a free-choice informal learning settings like Civil War battlefields and museums. Measuring the extent to which people demonstrate changes in knowledge through their learning experiences at Civil War sites can tell us more about the influence of the Sesquicentennial than the purchase of a teddy bear with a Union or Confederate kepi.

According to Sacco's long-term calculations, attendance is actually up at Antietam, Chickamauga, Gettysburg, Shiloh, Fort Sumter,  and Vicksburg.  Check out his post here.