If you are planning to attend Anniversary Weekend at Antietam National Battlefield this year, one of the many fascinating displays and exhibits that you will see is the Pennsylvania Civil War Road Show.
The PA Road Show is part of a statewide initiative sponsored by the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission and the Pennsylvania Heritage Society to celebrate the story and role of Pennsylvania during the Civil War. In order to reach every corner of the state, a 53 foot, collapsible trailer was outfitted with special exhibit panels, interactive media, and audio in order to give visitors a solid overview of the Keystone state during the War.
Most visitors might be surprised to learn that Pennsylvania in the Civil War was more than just Gettysburg (blasphemy!). In fact, one video tells the story of the disaster at the Allegheny Arsenal in Pittsburgh. Nearly 90 civilians, mostly women and children who were making ammunition for the Union war effort, were killed when a stray spark ignited thousands of pounds of black powder. The date of that disaster? September 17, 1862. That’s right. The same day as the Battle of Antietam, making the loss of soldier and civilian life that day truly the bloodiest day in American history.
The Road Show also contains a video booth for anyone who wishes to record a story about a Civil War ancestor, an artifact, or their personal interest in the War. Visitors can also take “old time” pictures of themselves, and create a Civil War scrapbook as mementos of their experience.
For nearly 2 years now, the Pennsylvania Civil War Road Show has crisscrossed the state, and visited all 67 counties. It’s trip to Antietam this month will be its first trip outside of the Keystone state. Originally planned to tour during the entire Sesquicentennial (2011-2015), this year will mark the last year for the traveling exhibit, as crucial funding has dried up. At the end of this year, the trailer will be taken apart and pieces of the exhibit will be on display in the State Museum in Harrisburg. So, Anniversary Weekend at Antietam may be your last opportunity to check it out! Look for the PA Civil War Road Show, as well Virginia’s traveling exhibit, in the parking area in front of the Antietam Visitor Center from Sept. 14 – 17.