Monday, January 14, 2013

The 52 Footsteps Challenge

The First Minnesota monument (left) and the Pennsylvania Memorial.
If you haven't "liked" Gettysburg National Military Park on facebook, you probably should.

Earlier this month the park announced its "52 Footsteps" Challenge, an interesting and interactive way to introduce the public to some of the lesser-known stories of Gettysburg. So what's the challenge? Well, it's pretty simple: each Wednesday the park introduces its facebook fans to a person connected with the Battle of Gettysburg, and relates that individual's story. It then challenges fans to go out and take photographs of the location on the battlefield associated with that individual, and post them to the park's facebook page. If you can't make it to Gettysburg to snap your photo, try to find a local connection to the story of the week.

The park has already issued its first two challenges: week one featured the story of Gettysburg native Thaddeus Stevens, and week two features Sergeant Philip Hamlin of the 1st Minnesota:
Sergeant Philip Hamlin, 1st Minnesota Infantry, wrote home often giving his little brother Charlie plenty of advice: “Strive to be good. Let me hope that you will lead a Christian life. I may never see you again here. Shall I not see you in heaven?” Charlie would never again see Philip on this earth. Killed at the battle of Gettysburg, Hamlin was buried by his men on the field, and eventually moved to the Minnesota plot in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. Visit the site of the First Minnesota Monument, near the Pennsylvania monument (Auto Tour Stop 12), and post your photograph in his footsteps there where his unit formed up to defend the Cemetery Ridge against two brigades of on-coming Confederates.
Both challenges received a nice response. I dug through some of my Gettysburg photos to participate in challenge number two, but sadly I found quality photos of the 1st Minnesota monument lacking - the above long shot was the best I could do. Week three's challenge will be revealed on Wednesday.

Overall I think this is a really neat use of social media to build engagement and to keep the story of Gettysburg on people's minds throughout this 150th anniversary year, even if only local fans can fully participate. I've been hugely impressed in general with the social media efforts of NPS sites like Gettysburg and Antietam during the last year and a half to build enthusiasm for sesquicentennial activities. If you haven't done so already - many of the NPS military parks are well worth a follow on facebook, twitter and even youtube. Its a great way to stay connected, and I've found quite a bit of good content posted as well.

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