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The raid on Frederick

January 27, 1997

Even if Hagerstown can't lure the National Museum of Civil War Medicine away from Frederick, give the city government points for being aggressive enough to go after it. And if the city's offer to house this aggregation of artifacts is rejected, maybe it will bring Hagerstown to the attention of another collector looking for a place to display his or her treasures.

Gordon Dammann, president of the medical museum board and the donor of a 4,000-item collection that makes up most of the exhibits, said the 13-member board considered and rejected Hagerstown's offer two weeks ago.

Hagerstown's bid did get a hearing, however, Dammann said, because some board members are unhappy because renovations at the Frederick site are proceeding so slowly. According to an Associated Press report, even though the museum has been open since June, only one of three floors is accessible to the public. Heating and humidity-control systems also need work.

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No matter what happens, Hagerstown's offer will make news throughout the nationwide community of Civil War enthusiasts. At that point, those who don't want to think about their collections of Civil War items being sold piece-by-piece on the auction block may consider Hagerstown as a possible home for them.

Beyond that, however, this bold attempt to take something from Frederick ought to be a source of civic pride, because it certainly was a source of shame and dismay in 1993 when Washington County fumbled its chance to house the medical collection at the Antietam Battlefield.

Things have changed since then, however, with Hagerstown successfully luring the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites to Hagerstown from Fredericksburg, Va., and winning approval of a room-tax surcharge to fund Civil War-related tourism activities.

In short, Hagerstown has demonstrated that it is serious about wanting tourism and capable of putting together projects to bring it here. Even if city officials don't corral this one, they deserve plenty of credit for their effort.

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