Pennsylvania Historians to Mark 150th Anniversary of Civil War

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Pennsylvania historians announced plans Tuesday to mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War with a statewide commemoration.

"The Pennsylvania Civil War 150 commemoration is far more than a formal remembrance," said Barbara Franco, executive director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. "It is a collection of stories brought to life that are as epic as the fields of Gettysburg and as small as the struggles of a soldier's wife working to survive her husband's absence on a Pennsylvania farm."

The early kickoff of the Civil War program is primarily a call for participation to state residents and historical groups who have stories about ancestors, organizations or military units involved in the war, said Andy Masich, president and CEO of the Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District.

"We are setting up a framework that needs to be filled in," Masich said.

Mickey Rowley, the state's deputy secretary of tourism, said the program should boost visits to historic sites for "learning and relearning."

Civil War tourism pays in Pennsylvania. The National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg has drawn 450,000 visitors since it opened in 2001. The battlefield at Gettysburg, Adams County, draws 1.7 million visitors a year, said Carl Whitehill, media relations director for the Gettysburg-Adams County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The four-year observance, which begins 2011, is a joint project of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Pennsylvania Heritage Society, Historical Society of Pennsylvania and Heinz History Center.

Their budgets are unclear yet as the program is put together, Franco said.

But by the time smaller, regional history groups get involved, more than $40 million may be spent, Masich said. That money will come from state, federal and private sources.

The program will include PACivilWar.com, a Web site dealing with personal, political, historic and industrial stories of the war. It will include the Pennsylvania Civil War Road Show, a 53-foot-long trailer that will take the story to all 67 counties.

In addition, the Heinz History Center will coordinate the publication of two volumes -- "Pennsylvania Civil War in Photographs" and "Pennsylvania African Americans in the Civil War Era."

Another initiative will be a digitization process done through Penn State University in an attempt to unearth and organize Civil War collections in an on-line format.

The Web site is in place right now, telling the story of participants in the war from soldiers and politicians to children and women on the home front. …