Civil War museum hopes to double number of visitors
The Frederick (Md.) News-Post
History-related tourism has been a major business in Frederick County.
The National Museum of Civil War Medicine welcomes 40,000 visitors a year, including 50 to 60 tour bus groups, but museum staff would like to double that number over the next 18 months.
“There are 1 million tour buses in D.C. each year,” said George Wunderlich, executive director of the museum on East Patrick Street. “If we can get .0001 percent of those, we could double our visitors.”
Wunderlich and David Price, chief of operations at the museum, spoke to members of the museum’s board at an event that included the goal to bring in more visitors to Frederick, an expansion of the former book store in the museum to a gift shop, and the opening of the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office in Washington.
The Clara Barton site, on Seventh Street in Washington, is the third museum for the organization. The other is the Pry House, a Civil War field hospital museum in Keedysville. That growth continues to pay off.
“We take the money out of the pockets of tourists and put it in the pockets of Frederick County,” Wunderlich said.
The Frederick museum has seen some recent changes. One of the two large front windows of the former Carty’s Furniture Store and Funeral Home was changed. For a long time, the window had a nurse tending to a wounded soldier. The new window focuses on Frederick’s place as a hospital center during the Civil War. Churches, schools and other buildings became places to care for the wounded. The Hessian Barracks at the Maryland School for the Deaf was Military General Hospital Number 1 and served wounded soldiers through much of the war.
“It’s why we are here,” Price said of the museum.
The former book store has been expanded to include gifts, including novelties such as chocolate mini balls (mini balls were bullets used in the war) to Abraham Lincoln Band-Aids.
By linking the museums together, Price said visitors to the Clara Barton site may come to Frederick. The site was where Barton helped track down 22,000 missing soldiers through 63,000 pieces of correspondence.
Barton gathered supplies there and founded the Red Cross (from what had been the Sanitary Commission during the war). Visitors can then go to the Antietam National Battlefield and follow in Barton’s footsteps, even where a bullet passed through her dress as she tended to a wounded soldier who died.
“People spend 90 minutes in the museum and the rest of the day in Frederick,” Price said.
John Fieseler, executive director of the Tourism Council of Frederick County, said during the 150th anniversary at Gettysburg National Battlefield, Frederick hotels were nearly filled and foot traffic at Frederick’s historic sites and restaurants was up significantly. Stakeholders were asked to fill out questionnaires on how to improve the museum’s recognition in the community and for tourists.
“We need to reach outside these walls,” Price said.
Frederick Alderwoman Shelley Aloi, who is liaison from the city to the museum, said the partnerships were important.
“We are not competing, but everyone lifting everyone up. That’s exciting.”