Gettysburg Beyond The Battle Museum A Powerful Experience
A small Pennsylvania town known for its historic past is making new history with the widely celebrated and highly praised Beyond The Battle Museum.
Unlike other Gettysburg museums that highlight the Civil War era, Beyond The Battle is dedicated to the entire scope of Adams County’s history, from prehistoric times to contemporary times.
The exhibits that do feature the Battle of Gettysburg are focused on what the civilians of the small town saw and endured rather than military tactics or battlefield scenarios.
The wide range of rare artifact displays, along with an intense and powerful immersive experience called Caught in the Crossfire, come together at Beyond The Battle Museum to create an impactful experience for both old and young alike.
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“You will leave Beyond the Battle Museum with a new understanding of the civilian experience during the Civil War… and the impression that Gettysburg is making history again.”
Jessica James / Past Lane Travels
Table of Contents
Why Is It Called Beyond The Battle Museum?
Gettysburg is well known as a bucket list destination for Civil War buffs and historians, so most of the town’s attractions deal with the Battle of Gettysburg.
Beyond the Battle Museum is different because it covers, not just Gettysburg, but all of Adams County, where Gettysburg is located.
Additionally, this new history museum does not just cover the Civil War era era, but stretches from prehistoric through contemporary times, spanning some 200 million years.
Visitors can explore 12 interactive exhibit galleries packed with rare artifacts, informational displays and immersive exhibits that are both entertaining and educational.
Walking Through Time
From the minute you walk through the door of the first exhibit, you know you’ve taken a giant leap back in time.
Huge boulders like those at Devil’s Den loom in front of you, and a short movie projected onto the rocks orients you to Adams County’s earliest history.
The state of the art video is a quick journey through time, conveyed through vivid imagery and audio. In just a few minutes, visitors are transported a few hundred years, from the vast expanse of Pennsylvania’s wilderness through the rise of the county’s fruit-growing industry.
The next few displays showcase artifacts that are billions of years old, such as a fragment of a meteorite that crashed in Mt. Joy Township during the 1880s — a rare and ancient relic from the cosmos.
Additionally, you can explore Adam’s County’s prehistoric past with exhibits featuring fossilized dinosaur footprints. These impressive rock slabs provide an opportunity for children to not only see, but also touch, the remnants of these extinct creatures.
Caught In The Crossfire Exhibit
Though the citizens of Gettysburg were on alert during the waning days of June, 1863, most ignored the constant rumors and assumed that any major conflict would take place in Harrisburg, Philadelphia or Washington rather than in their little community.
As local resident Fannie Buehler recalled “We thought the bulk of the Union soldiers were far away…and no one dreamed of a battle being fought in our town.”
Imagine then being suddenly thrust into the midst of a raging battle with little to no warning of the impending conflict.
Caught in the Crossfire is Beyond The Battle Museum’s premier exhibit that helps visitors understand the Battle of Gettysburg and the impact it had on the local residents of the community.
Upon entering a dimly lit reconstructed farmhouse, museum-goers can see, hear and feel what it would have been like to be trapped behind enemy lines.
As a spattering of gunfire erupts, those in the room can listen to a family’s conversation as they huddle in their basement, not knowing what is going to happen next. Uneaten food is left on the kitchen table, giving a sense of their sudden and unexpected flight for safety.
The gunfire swells to ear-piercing detonations of artillery as the floorboards begin to shake and bullet holes appear in the walls. The sound of windows smashing and glass breaking grows increasingly loud.
With the help of cutting edge technology, the Caught in the Crossfire exhibit at Beyond the Battle Museum delivers one of the most realistic, memorable and powerful experiences possible, leaving visitors with a true sense of the fear and uncertainty that engulfed the citizens of Gettysburg.
A Breakdown of the Exhibits At Beyond The Battle Museum
In addition to featuring the civilian story of the Battle of Gettysburg, Beyond the Battle Museum uses hundreds of artifacts and the words of local citizens to convey the history of Adams County.
Here is a brief breakdown of the 12 galleries at the Adams County Historical Museum:
Exhibit 1: Natural History including rock formations like Devil’s Den, dinosaur tracks and a real meteorite.
Exhibit 2: Information about the Native Americans who lived in Adams County and how they lived, with artifacts that include a cooking stone.
Exhibit 3: Life on the Frontier is an interesting slice of Adams County history that includes gripping stories of colonial land disputes and the kidnapping of Mary Jemison by Native Americans.
Exhibit 4: The Revolutionary America exhibit is an interactive one where visitors can sit in Samuel Gettys’s Tavern and eavesdrop on 18th-century conversations. Silverware and glasses clink, making it sound and feel authentic. Taverns were the center of cultural and community life in colonial Pennsylvania and are where the sparks of the American Revolution were ignited.
Exhibit 5: A Growing Community explores local ties to notable historical figures like Thaddeus Stevens, Francis Scott Key, and explores the county’s involvement in the Underground Railroad.
Exhibit 6: The Civil War provides the stories of local soldiers and civilians who fought for freedom and the Union, with lots of local artifacts.
Exhibit 7: The War Comes Home exhibit reveals how ordinary families endured the unexpected Battle of Gettysburg.
Exhibit 8: Caught in the Crossfire is an immersive experience where visitors step inside a home between the lines and experience firsthand the horrific sights and sounds of war.
Exhibit 9: The Aftermath explores how local residents in the small town dealt with the death, disease and destruction of the Battle of Gettysburg, with original battle-damaged artifacts from the town.
Exhibit 10: The Address is another powerful exhibit that gives visitors the sense of standing in the crowd and reflecting on Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address through the words of actual eyewitnesses. There are lots of original artifacts, including a chair that sat on the platform during the Address.
Exhibit 11: Preservation and Progress shows the changing battlefield and community at the dawn of the 20th century. A trolley, the Gettysburg National Tower and other amusements are covered through pictures and video.
Exhibit 12: The Recent Past provides information on World War I and World War II, and the contributions of Dwight D. Eisenhower and others who shaped the 20th century of Gettysburg’s history.
A Cherished Gettysburg Artifact
One of Gettysburg Beyond The Battle Museum’s most valued artifacts is a map of downtown Gettysburg that is printed on an animal hide.
This interesting piece of history came from James Gettys, the founder of Gettysburg, who held a lottery to generate excitement for his new land purchase.
Ticket holders received first right of purchase on randomly assigned lots in his new town. The picture above is the original 1785 plot map of Gettysburg, written with ink on parchment (animal hide).
The map includes the names chosen for each lot. The price for each was $10 with a yearly fee of $1 paid to Gettys.
Another extremely rare artifact is an original copy of the 1863 program when President Abraham Lincoln delivered, what came to be known as the Gettysburg Address, during the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery.
The program was found in a box of papers and had apparently been used as scrap paper.
A Treasure Trove For Researchers
Located above the Beyond the Battle Museum, on the second floor, is the Adams County Historical Society’s vast collection of historical documents, archives and artifacts, along with the Dr. Charles H. Glatfelter Research Room.
The Adams County Historical Society uses more than 5,000 square feet to preserve historic materials in its archives and research room, including county records of wills, orphan court records, property deeds and maps.
The historic documents are kept in a climate-controlled room featuring rows of immense bookshelves. There are also secure vaults that ensure the safety of the documents.
Huge ledgers contain every issue of every Adams County newspaper, a rare find in today’s world. There are also boxes of donated family Bibles and a wall of framed art and photographs.
The Adams County Historical Society has the largest collection of civilian accounts of the Battle of Gettysburg anywhere.
Over all, the Historical Society preserves more than three centuries of history and has more than one million historic items in its care.
In the Research Library, visitors can access a variety of records, manuscripts and books, many of which cannot be found anywhere else. This includes genealogy information, historic property research, military history and Civil War-era accounts.
Additionally, the Adams County Historical Society hosts monthly seminars that focus on specific tools and techniques to conduct historical research on Gettysburg and Adams County-related topics.
Those who visit the second floor of the Beyond the Battle Museum will see a beautiful sweeping view of the Gettysburg National Military Park that includes Barlow Knoll and the historic Almshouse Cemetery.
Facts About The Gettysburg Museum
- The Gettysburg Beyond The Battle Museum opened in April of 2023 and encompasses 25,000 square feet.
- The $11 million facility is the first museum dedicated to the entire scope of Adams County’s history, not just the Civil War years.
- The Beyond the Battle Museum was designed by the Washington, D.C. firm HealyKohler, who also created the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia among other iconic American attractions.
- The Historical Society cares for more than one million artifacts.
- Stories are told from some of the 300 civilian accounts that the museum has in its collection.
- The Adams County Historical Society is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that began in 1888.
Plan Your Visit To Beyond The Battle Museum
You can reserve tickets for Beyond the Battle Museum here.
Beyond The Battle Museum Tickets:
- General: $15
- Youth (K through 12): $10
- Seniors 65 and over: $14
- Adams County Residents: $13
- Children 5 and under: Complimentary
- Active Duty Military: Complimentary
- ACHS Members: Complimentary (Become a member).
- Free admission: All Adams County students, kindergarten through college
- Group pricing available
Location: 625 Biglerville Road, Gettysburg
Monday: 10 am. to 5 p.m.
Tuesday: Pre-booked groups only
Wednesday: Pre-booked groups only
Thursday: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The museum has plenty of free on-site parking and is wheelchair/ADA accessible.
The Adams County Historical Society’s Beyond the Battle Museum’s gift shop carries books, tee-shirts, souvenirs and locally made items.
Special Events At Beyond The Battle Museum
The Adams County Historical Society facility also has meeting and event space available for everything from small conferences to large gatherings.
Located less than a mile from the center of downtown Gettysburg, it has the advantage of offering plenty of free parking.
The Battlefield Overlook Event Center can accommodate up to 140 guests for any function, from corporate retreats to family reunions or even weddings.
The view of the Gettysburg battlefield from this room is stunning.
For smaller occasions, the facility has a Seminar Room that can accommodate up to 24 guests. It is available for private events including business meetings and workshops.
Wrap-Up Of Gettysburg’s Beyond The Battle Museum
The Adams County Historical Society’s Beyond the Battle Museum is a true gem for both local residents and the visiting public, and offers a unique and unforgettable experience to visitors.
Those who are planning to attend the battle reenactments this year, may want to put the Beyond the Battle Museum on their must-visit list.
The Adams County Historical Society complex raises the bar for all museums and will no doubt become one one of the most visited and popular historical sites in Pennsylvania.
Disclosure: Past Lane Travels is a community partner of the Adams County Historical Society and the Gettysburg Beyond the Battle Museum.
Great article about a great museum. I look forward to reading more articles.