In an effort to bring to light a few of the preservation efforts being done at the grassroots level for Western Theater battlefield sites, we will bring to you an occasional Q&A with one of those organizations who has had success along the preservation front.
We asked Joni House, of the Friends of Perryville Battlefield, to provide some insight to the ongoing preservation efforts in and around Perryville, as well as let us a take a peek inside her organization's processes.
What preservation goal(s) are the Friends trying to accomplish?
Returning Perryville to its wartime landscape appearance. Assist in educating the public. We do this by assisting with programming as well as maintain and sponsor museum exhibits. We are also stewards for conservation. We assist in maintaining the native habitat that we installed during 2016.
Where is your audience, meaning those you “advertise” to, as well as supporters, located?
Our audience is nationwide. Perryville Battlefield is a National Historic Landmark and a Class A Battlefield as recognized by the United States Congress. Therefore, the battlefield is of national significance a treasure of the American people.
What does success look like for the organization?
Success is simple. If a soldier who fought at Perryville could walk across the landscape he would say, “I know this place – it is Perryville.” We’ve achieved that goal, but we continue to add to the landscape and expand our boundaries. We also seek to introduce the battlefield to new audiences and we are successful at this by promoting the natural habitat and wildlife that inhabit the park. Come for the bunnies but stay to appreciate and desire to protect the battlefield.
What sort of events does the organization sponsor?
The annual commemoration has been our main focus, however, we will be expanding those events over the next few years. Unfortunately, all the events we planned for in 2020 has been side lined by Covid. Please keep a look at our website at www.friendsofperryville.org for our future plans. We will be hosting a Perryville symposium in the near future and when the plague subsides!
How does historic preservation translate to prosperity in Perryville and the surrounding area?
Simple – major revenue. According to the Kentucky Battlefield Study conducted in 2017 6 out of 10 visitors to the battlefield were from outside Kentucky. The majority of the visitors traveled more than 200 miles to experience the battlefield. This translates into cash for local business and tax revenue for local and state government.
However, the most important component is to elevate the landscape above the definition of park and promote an understanding of the significance of the site. So many of the local families have direct ties to those who lived during the 1860s. It is often the shared and collective experience of their family. It is their history and although it is shared by thousands of others it is uniquely theirs.
I have always been a believer in sharing best practices among organizations - what are some ideas that the Friends have used in the past to increase support for the organization?
The very best practice – keep your mission simple. If it does not add to the preservation, conservation, and education efforts we do not do it. We are primarily a volunteer organization and with limited time we must be focused on those three things.
We thank Joni for her time and responses! One can easily support the Friends of Perryville Battlefield with either an online donation, a membership, or both! Perryville battlefield has had major success in preservation and interpretation, and their friends organization is passionate about Perryville. Their hashtag is "this place matters" and they live that mantra every day.