GETTYSBURG, Pa. — Life-size Civil War figures dressed in period garb, antique furniture and an animatronic President Abraham Lincoln will go on the auction block this weekend as a museum focused on the Battle of Gettysburg prepares to revamp itself.
The American Civil War Wax Museum, which opened in 1962, two years before the 100th anniversary of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, is retooling itself to focus on the history of the Pennsylvania town that became the site of so much carnage.
“We want people to understand that Gettysburg was a thriving community before the battle — there were three weekly newspapers, they had gas street lights, two institutions of higher learning and a carriage-making industry, which became nonexistent after the battle,” said Tammy Myers, president of Gettysburg Heritage Center.
To make way for new exhibits, the museum is clearing out about 95 life-size wax figures, two oil paintings — 7 feet high by 5 feet wide — of the first two U.S. presidents, George Washington and John Adams, as well as antique furniture, vintage flags and other artifacts from dismantled dioramas.
More than 100 people attended a preview this week to peruse the items that will be auctioned off on Saturday.
Sal and Joan Chandon, former owners of the Fairfield Inn, a historic tavern and restaurant west of Gettysburg, came to a Wednesday preview to check out the furniture, paintings and other furnishings.
“I’d been in here years ago and I knew it as the wax museum, but it never dawned on me that they had all the props and furniture — beautiful tables and chandeliers,” Joan Chandon said. “I’m sort of interested in using that for furnishings for a new tourist business.”
For the June reopening, the museum plans to replace its battle-focused exhibits with historical building facades, representing Gettysburg as it appeared before the battle.
More than 50,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or went missing during the Battle of Gettysburg, which raged from July 1 to 3, 1863. The fighting spread over a 50-square-mile area that surrounded the town of 2,500 people.
The battle is regarded as a turning point in the war that preserved the United States as a single country and also led to the abolition of slavery.