SOME RELICS OF THE PAST YOU CAN HOLD IN YOUR HAND. OTHERS YOU CAN WALK INSIDE.
On July 1st 2013, Gettysburg Seminary Ridge Museum opened exactly 150 years after the historic Battle of Gettysburg. Northern Light Productions (NLP) is proud to have produced four films, over a dozen audio programs, and interactive media for the new exhibits entitled, Voices of Duty and Devotion.
The museum, on the campus of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, was a participant in the actual battle. Then known as Schmucker Hall, it stood in the middle of combat on the first day of battle and quickly became the battle’s largest field hospital. Even as the wounded were being brought inside, bullets and cannon fire were hitting its sturdy brick walls.
Now Schmucker Hall is a living artifact, with 20,000 feet of exhibit space spread over four carefully-restored floors. Each floor has its own theme: the first day of battle, care of the wounded, and the controversial topics of faith and freedom that still resonate today.
One hears the expression “if these walls could talk,” and at the Seminary Ridge Museum, that’s exactly what happens. First-person testimony plays a particularly strong role in museum interpretation, and one of the challenges of the project was casting for approximately 70 different voice roles. As visitors explore the rooms and hallways of the building, they hear soldiers, patients at the field hospital, surgeons and nurses, Gettysburg residents, Seminary students, and religious figures of the day, sharing the details of their concerns, hopes, and experiences.
Northern Light also had the pleasure of working with local re-enactors, who came fully prepared to re-enter the past and show us what the building was like filled with groaning, wounded men and a doctor doing surgery by lamplight (in the course of research we found that amputations—of which there were many—were often completed within 12 minutes). The dedicated re-enactor who was cast as the doctor in the video for floor three, Steeped in Sorrow and Death, not only brought his own costume and actual medical paraphernalia from the Civil War, but also contributed a great deal of knowledge about medical procedures used during the era.
To maintain authenticity and immediacy in the programs, the museum requested that the medical re-enactment scenes be filmed in the museum. However, because it had been renovated to 21st century standards, much of it did not have the feel we were looking for. Luckily, we found an area of the building that still had old wooden floors and remained relatively untouched, and museum staff unearthed some early dorm beds that had been in storage for decades. By carefully setting up shots to only include authentic elements of the room, we produced evocative and historically accurate re-enactment scenes that serve as a visual backbone for the video programs.
Director of Photography Jesse Beecher shot the medical re-enactment scenes as well as b-roll of scenic Gettysburg landscapes and exteriors. Jesse’s favorite part about shooting in Gettysburg last summer and fall was waking before sunrise to capture the landscape. He went on to say that “Gettysburg is one of the only places I’ve been in the country where there is a true sense of hallowed ground and history. In the early morning there was mist over everything, and it really felt like a special place.”
The museum’s opening was a resounding success, drawing crowds even before its 8am grand opening on the 1st of July. Museum Director Barbara Franco said she is delighted to be “helping to preserve and bring to life one of the most important surviving buildings of the Civil War era in Gettysburg and be a part of one of the lasting legacies of the 150th anniversary of the great battle.” We are proud to have played a role in this quest by producing media for the Gettysburg Seminary Ridge Museum—a living piece of history that is certainly worth visiting. See the museum website for additional information.Battle of Gettysburg > Civil War > documentary > film > Gettysburg > Gettysburg Seminary Ridge Museum > history > interactive media > media > Museum