Dr. W. Todd GroceGeorgia Historical Society presidentThe 150th anniversary of the Civil War begins in 2011, and already there has been criticism by some that Georgia is ‘a day late and a dollar short’ when it comes to promoting it. The fact is, in the midst of a fiscal crisis, the state is making wise and timely use of limited funding to develop a unique CW150 program that will draw visitors from around the world to Georgia.Leading the charge is the Georgia Department of Economic Development, which has partnered with private organizations to create multiple interactive ways for people to explore Georgia’s Civil War history. Here at the Georgia Historical Society, we have collaborated with the GDEcD to survey and refurbish Civil War historical markers around the state as well as create and install new markers telling previously untold stories from the war about the role of women, African Americans, the home front, Unionists, industry, and politics. Historical marker dedications involving local communities and statewide dignitaries are taking place throughout 2010 and 2011, including the upcoming Oct. 6 event in Dalton featuring keynote speaker Andrew Young. These dedications are generating widespread interest on the local level in promoting the commemoration.This partnership has also made possible the Civil War 150 Historical Marker Project micro website at georgiahistory.com, which allows visitors to use Google maps to plan and implement custom driving tours based on their personal interests. A mobile phone application for the GHS historical marker program is also in the works. With a relatively small investment, such innovations will promote heritage tourism to cities and small towns throughout the state. And rather than concentrate solely on the military aspect of the war as the Centennial did 50 years ago, we’ve been able to present an expanded, more inclusive view of Civil War that makes the conflict meaningful to all Georgians.In addition to the GHS marker project, the state is preparing to launch GaCivilWar.org to help communities and organizations promote their CW150 activities across the state and beyond. A printed a map guide of Civil War sites will also be available in visitor information centers around the state in the coming weeks. In collaboration with the Georgia Civil War Commission, the University of Georgia Press, and the Georgia Humanities Council, it commissioned a new edition of Barry Brown and Rich Elwell’s Crossroads of Conflict: A Guide to Civil War Sites in Georgia, chock full of stunning color photos and expanded historical information. Through these private-public partnerships we are offering local and out-of-state visitors a thorough, accessible Civil War experience that includes battlefields, historical markers, historic sites, and museums. By collaborating to promote each others’ activities, we’re making good use of the funding available as well as helping foster heritage tourism and build the economy of Georgia.Though next year is the official beginning of the nation’s Civil War 150 commemoration, it’s important to remember that the 150th anniversaries of Georgia’s important Civil War Battles aren’t until 2014, which means we are rolling out our programs and projects right on time. The state of Georgia is already reaching history enthusiasts and potential visitors worldwide on an unprecedented scale through its up-to-the-minute technology. People making travel plans over the next few years will find that Georgia is ready to share its rich history of the Civil War.Dr. W. Todd Groce is the President and CEO of the Georgia Historical Society. He can be reached at WTGroce@georgiahistory.com.
Let’s not battle over Georgia’s Civil War tourism
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