Insights from Preservation Kentucky’s “Battlefields & Beyond” Conference

By arohmiller, posted on October 2nd, 2013.
Filed under: News

Written by Randy Koch

[Randy Koch is chair of the Erie County Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee, which is committed to promoting Erie County’s Civil War history.  Koch attended the recent Preservation Kentucky Conference and came away with new ideas and insights about Civil War preservation.  We are happy to share his recap of the experience.] 

A view of the Perryville, Kentucky battlefield.

A view of the Perryville, Kentucky battlefield. Photo courtesy of Randy Koch.

It’s July 2013. The tandem commemorations of Gettysburg and Vicksburg are over. I feel like a little kid at Christmas with more the half the presents opened. We’re now on the backside of CW150, but Preservation Kentucky’s timely “Battlefields & Beyond” conference in August offered a stimulating view of opportunities for Civil War sites beyond the sesquicentennial.

The conference took place in Danville, one of Kentucky’s oldest towns. The location allowed us opportunity to tour Danville, including CentreCollege, the McDowell House on Constitution Square, nearby Perryville Battlefield, and CampNelson. Danville provided an insightful microcosm into a civil war with brother against brother, as a number of men from the area wore the blue and the gray.

The event drew attendees from ten states plus Washington D.C. Organizations represented were Berea College, the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, the National Park Service’s Historic Preservation Planning Program, the Museum of the Confederacy, the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, the Civil War Trust, the Tracing Center on Histories and Legacies of Slavery, plus a number of speakers from Tennessee sites and state entities.

Receptions at the McDowell House and Perryville Battlefield provided enjoyable, informative evenings with opportunities to network with speakers and attendees.

With the investment of time and travel expense, what was garnered from “Battlefields & Beyond”? Civil War Sites are like natural resources—a finite number with no new ones being created. This is all we have. Network with other sites provides partnering opportunities. Also recognize the local, state, and federal agencies which help preserve and promote history while—yes, generating tourism dollars. And think outside the box. What site was visited more than Gettysburg? Kennesaw Battlefield near Atlanta, not because of its history but because of the recreational draw, creating park advocates with each walker, runner, or bicyclist enjoying the park.

In summary, as one speaker said, “For our heritage to survive we must become proactive, transitioning from good stewards to spokespersons; and from historians to advocates.”

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