National Park ServiceU.S. Department of the Interior
Partnership header Making music at the Ashville festival, Blue Ridge Parkway
Gettysburg National Battlefield Museum & Visitor Center

Description: After almost 15 years of planning and development, the state-of-the-art $103 million Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center opened to the public on April 14, 2008. The complex includes a visitor center, museum, Cyclorama gallery, collections storage facility, a public library, classrooms for school programs and special education programs, book & museum store, food service, and administrative offices. The new facility replaced the 87-year-old visitor center and 1962 Cyclorama Center located a half a mile southeast from the new location.

The National Park Service's partner on the project, the Gettysburg Foundation, owns the museum and receives all the revenue generated from the visitor center, including proceeds from the gift shop, and ticket sales from the Gettysburg Cyclorama and the film, "A New Birth of Freedom".

In exchange, the foundation incurs all operating costs associated with the new facility and is paying down $15 million in outstanding debt. According to John Latschar, former Gettysburg National Military Park Superintendent, the foundation's assumption of the operating and maintenance costs for the new facility will save the park approximately $300,000 a year, currently used to operate and maintain the two older buildings.

Some of these savings will be used to demolish the former visitor center and Cyclorama Center. The park plans to rehabilitate the landscape to its state when solders fought on the battlefield in 1863.

The park service signed an agreement with the Gettysburg National Battlefield Museum Foundation (the Museum Foundation) granting the Museum Foundation the authority to raise the funds required to design, build and operate a new museum complex for Gettysburg National Military Park (Gettysburg NMP) in June 2000. Under the terms of the agreement, the Museum Foundation will operate the complex on behalf of the NPS for 20 years, after which time the land and building would be donated to the NPS.

Construction for the project began in 2005. The capital required for construction was originally estimated to be at least $39.3 million in 1998, but was raised to $68.3 million with the completion of schematic design in 2002. Operational funding from interpretive fees, user fees, and rentals provides the revenue to fund program costs and allow for ongoing programmatic upgrades.

The concept of forging a public private partnership to assist Gettysburg NMP with their major capital problems began shortly after Superintendent John Latschar arrived at Gettysburg National Military Park in 1994. He conducted a conditions assessment and concluded there were four significant needs of the park: protect the park's collection of objects and archives; preserve the Cyclorama painting and National Historic Object, "High Tide of the Confederacy"; provide high quality interpretation and educational opportunities for park visitors, and; rehabilitate the nationally significant historical landscapes of the battle lines.

In fall 1994, Superintendent Latschar was approached by a local developer with a proposal to finance up to $30 million for the construction of a new museum building. In return, the developer wanted to construct an Imax theater on park lands next to the new museum to show a major interpretive film of the Battle of Gettysburg for a fee. In January 1995, Director Kennedy gave approval to pursue the concept of a public-private partnership. After negotiations with the developer and review by the Regional Solicitor, the park released a draft Development Concept Plan (DCP) for public review in April 1995.

There were both public and internal concerns over the DCP. Publicly, there were questions over why NPS accepted the unsolicited partnership and did not open a proposed partnership to competition. Internally, there was the opinion that the DCP had been prepared to meet the "funds available" - the $30 million limit of the proposed partner. Park staff was instructed to prepare another DCP which discussed the true needs of the park, regardless of the potential cost.

A new DCP was released in April, 1996. The preferred alternative for this DCP estimated it would cost $43 million to meet the true needs of the park. The DCP proposed that NPS prepare a nation-wide Request for Proposals (RFP) to seek partners for the funding, design, construction, and operations of the facility, and it provided the public with the opportunity to comment upon the selection criteria that the NPS proposed to use.

In December, 1996, the NPS released a RFP for a visitor center and museum facilities. In November 1997, the NPS selected the proposal submitted by Robert Kinsley for negotiations.

In the spring 1997, the NPS began the scoping and public involvement process for a new General Management Plan (GMP) for Gettysburg NMP. With the opening of the RFP and the selection of Kinsley as the proposed partner, the NPS "folded" the 1996 draft Development Concept Plan into the new GMP which was already underway. Thus, between November 1997 and June 1998, the park had the unique experience of conducting negotiations with a proposed partner while simultaneously conducting public meetings concerning the development of alternatives for the new GMP.

Due to intense public interest in the partnership proposal, negotiations with Kinsley were, in effect, conducted in public. That intense interest was reflected in the Congress, which led to an oversight hearing in February 1998 by the Senate Subcommittee on National Parks, and an oversight hearing in February 1999 by the House Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands.

NPS negotiations were completed in June 1998, which led to the signing of a Letter of Intent between the NPS and the Gettysburg National Battlefield Museum Foundation - the 501(c)(3) non-profit founded by Kinsley - in July 1998. NPS then released the draft GMP/EIS for a 60-day public review in August 1998.

During the course of the development of the GMP, the NPS conducted an intensive public involvement campaign consisting of five newsletters, 17 public meetings, 3 open houses, 59 briefings for Congressional members and staff, 23 speeches to Civil War groups and civic organizations in numerous states.

The formal public review of the draft GMP/EIS followed suit. From 60 days of public review and 9 public meetings, the NPS collected over 500 written comments. Over 75% of the public comments supported the preferred alternative, which included the partnership with the Museum Foundation. There was limited vocal opposition, primarily from local merchants, who feared that relocating the current visitor center would have an adverse economic impact upon their businesses. Although the NPS commissioned an economic impact analysis that projected that a new museum facility would increase visitor spending by $30 million per year, opponents refused to accept the findings of the analysis.

Those opposed to the GMP included a handful of architectural historians, who were dismayed to discover in the spring of 1998 that the NPS had been proposing to remove the cyclorama building, which had been designed by Richard Neutra. The NPS had previously prepared a Determination of Eligibility on the building in 1995, and concluded that it did not possess sufficient national significance to meet National Register criteria for structures less than 50 years old. The Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Officer concurred with the NPS in 1996. The architectural historians appealed the findings to the Keeper of the National Register who determined in September 1998, after the draft GMP had been released for public review, that the building was eligible to the National Register of Historic Places.

The appeal triggered full consultations with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), which took an additional six months. The ACHP ruled in May 1999 that "There are other Neutra buildings; there is only one Gettysburg Battlefield...The Building must yield." With that decision in place, and a subsequent Memorandum of Agreement negotiated and signed between the NPS, the Pennsylvania SHPO and the ACHP, the NPS was finally able to release the final GMP in June 1999.

The project was further stalled when a Democratic Congressman from western Pennsylvania decided to challenge Republican Senator Rick Santorum in the 2000 elections. He needed a name-recognition issue in central Pennsylvania and announced his opposition to the GMP. He succeeded in attaching an amendment to the FY2000 appropriations bill in the House that would have prohibited the NPS from spending any funds to implement the GMP. Additionally, he introduced a bill in the House which required specific Congressional authorization for the "construction of any visitor's center or museum in the proximity of or within the boundaries of the Gettysburg National Military Park." In the end, Senator Santorum was re-elected, the appropriations amendment was rejected by the House-Senate Conference Committee, and the bill died in the House without hearings. However, the episode resulted in a six-month delay before the Record of Decision (ROD) for the GMP/EIS was signed in November 1999.

With the ROD signed, the NPS moved immediately to the task of turning the Letter of Intent between the NPS and the Museum Foundation into a General Agreement and Fund-Raising Agreement, which took another seven months.

Finally after three years, the Museum Foundation had the green light to proceed on the project. In the next 18 months, the Foundation selected Robert Wilburn, former CEO of Colonial Williamsburg and the Carnegie Institute, as their President. Fund-raising and financial feasibility plans were completed, an architectural and exhibit design team was selected, and work began on the conceptual designs for the museum complex and its exhibit plans.

By the end of 2001, the conceptual design was completed and released to the public. The NPS was extremely pleased with the conceptual design, partly because the Museum Foundation committed to a higher quality of design and to raising more money than the General Agreement required.

Public reception of the design and plans was overwhelmingly positive and supportive. However, on March 21, 2002, the park was summoned to the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation and Public Lands to explain how and why the museum facility and visitor center had grown from the 118,000 square feet/$43 million project envisioned in the GMP, into a $95 million partnership with a 39,000 square foot facility. The answers? The revised building estimates were due to higher quality design and additional exhibit and public circulation space. The $95 million included both the additional building costs, as well as a $10 million endowment and the Museum Foundation's costs of fund-raising, neither of which had been estimated in the GMP.

As a result of the last House Subcommittee hearings, the Agreement between the NPS and the Museum Foundation was slightly modified, primarily to ensure that construction would not start until the Museum Foundation had secured sufficient funds to present the NPS with a completed product, including building, exhibits, and Cyclorama painting restoration.

Geographic area covered: Gettysburg National Military Park, located in Adams County, Pennsylvania, is comprised of 5,990 acres.

List of partners and relationships: The Gettysburg National Battlefield Museum Foundation and the National Park Service.

Accomplishments to date: Construction of the 139,000-square-foot Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center including three galleries and restoration of the Gettysburg Cyclorama, the popular 360-degree panorama painting of Pickett's Charge.

Key success factors: Vision, perseverance, and outstanding commitment on behalf of the Museum Foundation.

Frustrations: Dealing with those who don't share the vision (or any particular vision, for that matter).

Most important lessons learned to date:

  1. Don't underestimate the commitment of time and labor that will be required to bring home a major partnership. From 1995 through 1999, the planning and the politics of this venture occupied 75% of the Superintendent's time, 100% of park planner's time, 75% of public affairs specialist's time, and 50% of management assistant's time.
  2. A major partnership demands recognition on the part of both the Superintendent and the NPS that the Superintendent must stay in place longer than normal for the NPS, in order to bring the project home. Until a major partnership is through the planning stage and well into the implementation stage, much of the commitment between the NPS and the partner is based upon good faith and personal commitment between individuals.
  3. Do your homework and do it well. All of the implementation actions in the Gettysburg GMP (including the partnership) are resource-based. The fact that NPS could demonstrate the on-going resource damage resulting from "no action" provided the action alternative with a compelling sense of urgency, which both the public and the media clearly understood.
  4. Be prepared for the friction progress creates. Progress means change which has a tendency to frighten some folks; some for fear it will effect their economic well-being, some simply because they don't understand what is happening.
  5. Be prepared for personal attacks. A few of the die-hard opponents reverted to personal attacks upon the Superintendent's integrity, under the assumption that if he could be personally discredited then the NPS would abandon the plan. Take solace in the fact that they're attacking you personally only because they have no basis to attack either the merits of the plan itself or the process you used in decision-making.
  6. If friction is inevitable and attacks are expected, make certain you prepare your bases of support. The NPS must have the support of the Regional Director and the Washington Office. There must also be some sort of base of support in the Congress, in case that sense of friction generates enough outcry to attract the attention of Congressional Members or staff.

    The support of key members or staff of the appropriations and resource committees is important. Because Superintendent Latschar has a long working relationship with the staff of the appropriations subcommittee, and because he knew they would be highly interested in a partnership project which would eliminate a major chunk of the service-wide backlog, he briefed both members and staff of the appropriations subcommittee early and often. They loved it.

    It would be a mistake to assume that the resource subcommittees would have less interest in the project. It was no accident that all three Congressional hearings NPS had to deal with came from the resource subcommittees, and not the appropriations folks. The Superintendent feels he is still paying for that mistake, and is still playing catch-up with both resource members and staff.
  7. Make sure your partner is prepared for life in the public sector, because sometimes it isn't pleasant.
  8. When Superintendent Latschar speaks to people outside the Beltway, the predominant response to Kinsley's "gift" to the United States is "God bless him for helping a park that is in peril." When he speaks to people inside the Beltway, the predominant response is "what's he getting out of it?" This is a reality for which you and your partners should be prepared.
  9. Logic, common sense, facts, and data are wonderful things, but neither you nor your partner should expect them to prevail in the public arena. Some local merchants merely ignored the entire economic impact analysis as though it didn't exist, and continued to scream that the GMP would ruin them and the tax base of the local government.
  10. If your project and partnership are truly good for the park, the Service, and the American public, then you should be so committed to that project and partnership that you are prepared to put your career on the line.

What would you do differently next time:

  1. Brief Resource Committee staff as early and as thoroughly as Appropriations staff.
  2. Work earlier and more thoroughly with Gettysburg Borough Council, on beneficial economic impacts of the project.

Suggested resource materials(related to the case study): Final General Management Plan and Environment Impact Statement: Gettysburg National Military Park, June 1999 (w/Record of Decision, November 1999)

General Agreement between Gettysburg National Military Park, NPS, and the Gettysburg National Battlefield Museum Foundation, June 2000, revised November 2002

For more information:

Name: John Latschar
Affiliation: Superintendent, Gettysburg National Military Park Phone/Fax: 717-334-8170
Email/website: John_Latschar@nps.gov

Name: Robert Wilburn
Affiliation: President, Gettysburg National Battlefield Museum Foundation
Phone/Fax: 202-216-9030
Email/website: BobWilburn@AOL.com

Partnership category(ies) (check all that apply)

Fundraising _X_; Capital Improvements _X_; Facility Management _X_; Trails __; Design _X_; Program Delivery __; Visitor Services _X_; Tenant Organizations __; Concessioners __; Natural Resources Management/Restoration __; Cultural Resources _X_; Education/Interpretation _X_; Arts __; Information Services __; Transportation __; Mutual Aid __; Fire Management __; Planning _X_; Tourism __; Community Relations __;

Other ____________________________

Prepared by: John Latschar Date posted: 4/14/08
Phone: 717-334-8170

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Superintendent John Latschar at a press event
Crowded conditions in the current visitor center
These hats illustrate uniform items in the museum collection
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