Why a Cultural Landscape?

Throughout our postings, we have talked about the cultural landscape of the town of Gettysburg. But what we haven’t really talked about is why a cultural landscape is so important and effective for learning about the past. A cultural landscape is the combined effects of humans and nature on a certain section of land over time. Gettysburg’s cultural landscape has much more to do with the human side, as humans have had much more of an effect on the area (at least in recent times). By being inclusive and looking at all of the elements that go into a cultural landscape, we can learn about all the parts of the landscape, but also how they relate to each other. This is extremely helpful when anthropologists and archaeologists come across something they don’t know a lot about in the landscape. They can make inferences about it and figure out what it is or does or how it was used based on the context of the surrounding elements of the cultural landscape. For example, a button. If you or I found a button on the ground, our curiosity would be peaked and we would wonder where it came from. We might look around, but because we probably don’t know enough about our surroundings, we probably couldn’t figure out anything about it. Now if an archaeologist was looking at the remains of a house in Gettysburg, and found a button, they could probably figure out more. First of all, they have better technology, so they could test its age and make up. Then, given where it was found, they could probably figure out who or at least what kind of person used it. Its all about the circumstances. That’s what a cultural landscape provides. The context and circumstances to figure out the what, when, where, why, and how of an item. Its an invaluable tool for discovering our past.

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The Evolution of Gettysburg

The town of Gettysburg was once a sleepy little town in Central Pennsylvania. The most exciting things about it were the roads and the railroad bring travelers through, not to, Gettysburg. Then came the Battle. Troops fighting in and around the town. Then came President Abraham Lincoln to speak. Then more and more people started coming. Pretty soon, Gettysburg changed from a small, farm town to a bustling tourist destination.

Today, Gettysburg relies greatly on the tourism as a major, if not the major, source of income in the town. The town is still the same place: same college campus, same fields surrounding it (now known as the Battlefields) and many of the same buildings as we have talked about in previous posts. The train station, once a very central part of Gettysburg, now closed. Many of the houses that were present during the Battle still stand, but are now museums and objects of interest to look and gawk at from the street or cars. 

I think that while tourism and consumerism have helped make Gettysburg a wonderfully visitor friendly and open town, the town itself has lost some of its character. This is natural with modernization and happens everywhere, but I think that sometimes there is too much emphasis on making money, and that takes away from the natural value of the town. 

Overall, I think that Gettysburg has changed for the better, and that we should be lucky to be living/going to school in such a nice town with such rich history and culture. We should work hard to protect it.

The Beginning

Most people see the town of Gettysburg as the site of the one of the bloodiest battles in American History. However, the town of Gettysburg had a rich cultural history long before the soldiers wearing blue and grey swept through its streets. The purpose of this blog is to examine and follow the cultural evolution of the town of Gettysburg from the time of the Iroquois, through the Civil War, and the 150 years following. Did you know that the land in this area was purchased from the Iroquois? Or that Gettysburg itself was a melting pot of nationalities? We hope that we can help you to learn about the cultural landscape of the town of Gettysburg as we ourselves learn along the way.