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 Phil Seyfrit of the Battle of Richmond Association, to provide some insight to the ongoing preservation efforts in and around Nashville, as well as let us a take a peek inside his organization's processes.
What preservation goal(s) is/are is the Association trying to accomplish?
The Battle of Richmond Association is always on the lookout for significant parcels that relate to the Battle of Richmond. With current funding cutbacks, the search to acquire new properties has not been as high on the priority list as in years past. And with the nature of the Richmond battlefield being spread out and much on an active military base and other areas in commercial developed areas, it gets a little tough on land acquisition. And a partner in preservation is interpretation. Sites MUST be interpreted, whether it be a marker or monument.
Where is your audience, meaning those you “advertise” to, as well as supporters, located?
Our audience is a little different than most sites. Most sites tend to cater to already established battlefield “buffs”. We like to market ourselves to those that may have a little Civil War interest but need that push to get them to become more of a “buff”. People tend to shy away from things they don’t understand or are easily overwhelmed by. We like to “whet their appetite” and not choke them in the process. Civil War buffs will always find battlefields no matter how remote. With the Battle of Richmond accessibility to one of the most travelled interstates in the nation, we get a lot of visitors with a little interest that just needs to be cultivated.
What does success look like for the organization?
Success is seeing a person with the “I got it” look. When they realize something; especially kids.
What sort of events does the organization sponsor?
The Battle of Richmond is more than a reenactment. We have to think 365 days a year. Events/projects include, but not limited to, Living history for 4 & 5th graders, Chautauqua style presenters, Memorial Day services, collection of eyeglasses, tattered flag drop off station, Christmas card collection for military service personnel, sock drive for the disadvantaged at Christmas time, Santa Claus at the Richmond Battlefield, along with other community style involvement.
How does historic preservation translate to prosperity in Richmond and the surrounding area?
Real easy: the longer someone will stay in your community, the more money they will spend. The more there is to see, the longer they stay, thus the more money they spend. Gas, hotels, food. It isn’t brain surgery. Also, you must have a knowledge of surrounding tourism sites, and not just battlefields.
I have always been a believer in sharing best practices among organizations - what are some ideas that your group have used in the past to increase support for the organization?
Treat everyone like they are the only person visiting, but not overwhelm. Make sure kids get a little something, coloring book, pencil, cup, etc. Whether they buy something or not, make sure something goes home with them. Also, communicate with other sites (this is my pet peeve). Battlefields do not operate in a vacuum. Richmond is NOT the only Civil war battlefield. As the old adage says “We must hang together or we will all hang separately”.
Any other thoughts about the Battle of Richmond Association that you would like to share?
We need all the help we can get. We have great volunteers, but the vast majority work. Being a staff of one is tough.
More information about donations and memberships to the Battle of Richmond Association can be found on their website.