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What Is The Best Preparation For Becoming A Gettysburg Tour Guide


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Daria Schram



Are you passionate about history and eager to share your knowledge with others? Becoming a Gettysburg tour guide could be the perfect opportunity for you. As a tour guide, you have the chance to immerse yourself in the rich history of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and educate visitors from around the world about the significant events that took place on these hallowed grounds.


Gettysburg is renowned for being the site of one of the most decisive battles of the American Civil War. It serves as a symbol of sacrifice and remembrance, attracting history enthusiasts and tourists alike. To provide an exceptional experience for visitors, extensive preparation is essential.


In this article, we will explore the best ways to prepare yourself for becoming a Gettysburg tour guide. From researching the history of Gettysburg to developing public speaking skills and obtaining official certification, each step is crucial in becoming an effective and knowledgeable guide.


Embarking on this journey not only offers an opportunity to share your passion for history, but it also allows you to contribute to the preservation and appreciation of Gettysburg’s historic significance. So, let’s delve into the essential elements of preparation and discover what it takes to become a top-notch Gettysburg tour guide.


Background of Gettysburg Tour Guides

Before we delve into the preparation required to become a Gettysburg tour guide, let’s explore the background of these guides and their significance in sharing the history of this iconic location.


Gettysburg tour guides play a vital role in educating visitors about the events that unfolded during the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. They provide a deeper understanding of the battle strategies, key locations, and the brave soldiers who fought on these grounds.


These guides are ambassadors of history, tasked with preserving the legacy of the Battle of Gettysburg and imparting its importance to present and future generations. They bring history to life, connecting visitors to the past through engaging narratives and insights.


To become a Gettysburg tour guide, individuals must possess a strong passion for history and a desire to share that knowledge with others. While formal education in history or related fields is not a requirement, a solid understanding of the events of the Battle of Gettysburg and its historical context is crucial.


Many tour guides in Gettysburg develop their expertise through years of personal study and immersion in the subject matter. They strive to be knowledgeable about every aspect of the battle, from the military strategies employed to the stories of individual soldiers who fought bravely on these grounds.


While there are several opportunities for independent guiding in Gettysburg, many guides also work for licensed tour companies or with the Gettysburg National Military Park. These organizations provide additional training and resources to ensure that their guides possess the necessary skills and knowledge to deliver an exceptional experience to visitors.


It’s important to note that being a Gettysburg tour guide is not just about reciting facts and figures. It’s about connecting with visitors on an emotional level, helping them to understand the significance of the battle, and creating a memorable and transformative experience. Therefore, effective communication, storytelling, and interpretation skills are essential.


Now that we have explored the background of Gettysburg tour guides, let’s delve into the specific ways you can prepare yourself to become a knowledgeable and engaging guide.


Importance of Preparation

When it comes to becoming a Gettysburg tour guide, thorough preparation is of utmost importance. The battle of Gettysburg holds immense historical significance, and visitors come with high expectations. Here are some reasons why preparation is crucial:


Delivering Accurate Information: As a tour guide, your responsibility is to provide accurate and reliable information to visitors. The Battle of Gettysburg is a complex event with numerous intricacies, and it requires extensive research to truly understand and convey its significance. Preparation ensures that you have a thorough understanding of the battle, its context, and its impact, allowing you to share the most accurate information with your audience.


Creating a Memorable Experience: Visitors come to Gettysburg looking for a meaningful experience that connects them to the past. By investing time in preparation, you can offer a comprehensive and engaging tour that immerses visitors in the history and significance of the battlefield. When visitors leave with a greater appreciation and understanding of the Battle of Gettysburg, you know you have made a lasting impact.


Gaining Visitor Trust: In-depth preparation builds credibility and fosters trust with your audience. When visitors see your passion and knowledge, they are more likely to trust and value the information you share. This trust allows for a more engaged and interactive experience, as visitors feel comfortable asking questions and engaging in discussions.


Adapting to Different Audiences: Each group of visitors is unique, with varying levels of knowledge and interests. Proper preparation equips you with the flexibility to adapt your tour to cater to different audiences. Whether it’s a group of school children, avid history enthusiasts, or families, your preparation allows you to tailor your presentation to suit their needs and ensure an enjoyable experience for everyone.


Enhancing the Visitor Experience: Your role as a tour guide is not just to convey information but also to create a memorable and immersive experience for visitors. Thorough preparation enables you to craft compelling narratives, personalize your delivery, and choose specific locations and stories that resonate with your audience. A well-prepared tour provides visitors with a deeper appreciation for the historical events that unfolded on the Gettysburg battlefield.


To sum it up, preparation is the foundation for becoming an effective Gettysburg tour guide. It allows you to deliver accurate information, create a memorable experience, build trust with visitors, adapt to different audiences, and enhance the overall visitor experience. Now let’s explore the specific elements of preparation required for becoming a top-notch Gettysburg tour guide.


Researching Gettysburg’s History

One of the primary aspects of preparing to become a Gettysburg tour guide is conducting thorough research on the history of the Battle of Gettysburg. Understanding the events that transpired on these grounds is crucial for providing accurate and engaging tours. Here are some key steps in researching Gettysburg’s history:


Study Primary and Secondary Sources: To gain a comprehensive understanding of the battle, immerse yourself in primary and secondary sources. Primary sources include letters, diaries, official reports, and other firsthand accounts from soldiers and civilians who were present during the battle. Secondary sources, such as books and scholarly articles, provide analysis and interpretation of these accounts. By exploring a diverse range of sources, you can develop a well-rounded perspective on the battle.


Learn from Knowledgeable Historians: Attend lectures, seminars, and workshops conducted by historians specializing in the Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg. These experts can offer valuable insights, share new discoveries, and provide deeper context. Engaging with knowledgeable historians not only enhances your own understanding but also allows you to network with others in the field.


Visit Gettysburg’s Museums and Exhibits: Gettysburg is home to several exceptional museums and exhibits that showcase artifacts, displays, and multimedia presentations related to the battle. Take the time to visit these museums and immerse yourself in the exhibits. This firsthand experience will deepen your knowledge and provide visual references that you can use to enhance your tour narration.


Explore Gettysburg’s Historic Sites: Gettysburg’s hallowed grounds are filled with historic locations that played a significant role in the battle. Visit these sites, walk the fields, and visualize the events that unfolded there. Familiarize yourself with key locations, such as Cemetery Hill, Little Round Top, and the Peach Orchard, to better understand the tactical significance of each area. This firsthand exploration will allow you to provide a more immersive experience for your tour participants.


Stay Updated on Current Research: Historical research is an ongoing process, with new discoveries and interpretations being made regularly. Stay up to date with current scholarship on the Battle of Gettysburg by reading reputable historical journals, attending academic conferences, and following reputable historians and institutions on social media. This ensures that you are informed about the latest findings and can incorporate new insights into your tours.


By dedicating time to research Gettysburg’s history, you will develop a deep understanding of the battle and its significance. This knowledge forms the foundation of your role as a tour guide and allows you to convey accurate information and captivating narratives to your audience. Now let’s move on to the next crucial aspect of preparation: studying the battle strategies used during the Battle of Gettysburg.


Studying Battle Strategies

To provide a comprehensive and engaging tour of the Gettysburg battlefield, it is vital to have a thorough understanding of the battle strategies employed by the Union and Confederate armies. By studying these strategies, you can paint a vivid picture for visitors and explain how they shaped the outcome of the battle. Here are some key steps to studying the battle strategies at Gettysburg:


Learn about Military Tactics: Familiarize yourself with the military tactics commonly used during the American Civil War. This includes understanding formations, such as line, column, and skirmish, as well as different types of maneuvers, including flanking and frontal assaults. By studying these tactics, you can explain the movements and actions of the armies at Gettysburg in a way that is accessible and engaging for visitors.


Analyze Commanding Officers: Explore the leadership styles and decision-making processes of key commanding officers at Gettysburg, such as General Robert E. Lee and General George G. Meade. Understand their strategic objectives, strengths, and weaknesses. By learning about these leaders, you can provide insights into their actions and how they influenced the course of the battle.


Study the Three Days of Battle: The Battle of Gettysburg spanned three intense days, each with its unique challenges and turning points. Dive deep into the events of each day, studying the specific engagements, movements, and decision-making that took place. By understanding the sequence of events, you can guide visitors through the battle chronologically, emphasizing the strategic significance of each phase.


Explore Battlefield Terrain: Gettysburg’s terrain played a crucial role in shaping the battle. Study the topography of the battlefield, including hills, ridges, forests, and open fields. Understand how this terrain impacted the movement and positioning of troops and influenced the outcome of various engagements. Being able to visually describe the landscape to visitors will enhance their understanding and appreciation of the battle strategies employed.


Read Accounts of Military Leaders: Gain insights into the thought processes and decision-making of military leaders by reading their personal accounts and memoirs. This allows you to present their perspectives and provide visitors with a deeper understanding of the strategic considerations that went into the battle.


By studying the battle strategies at Gettysburg, you can effectively convey the dramatic and tactical elements of the battle to your tour participants. Being knowledgeable about the strategies employed by both sides adds depth and context to your narration, enriching the overall visitor experience. Now let’s move on to the next crucial aspect of preparation: learning about key locations and monuments at Gettysburg.


Learning about Key Locations and Monuments

As a Gettysburg tour guide, it is vital to have a comprehensive knowledge of the key locations and monuments throughout the battlefield. Understanding the significance of these sites allows you to provide a well-rounded and immersive experience for visitors. Here are some essential steps to learning about the key locations and monuments at Gettysburg:


Familiarize Yourself with Significant Sites: Begin by identifying the major sites and landmarks on the battlefield. These include areas such as Devil’s Den, The Peach Orchard, Cemetery Hill, and Little Round Top. Research the historical context of each location, understanding its strategic importance and the events that took place there during the battle. This knowledge will enable you to guide visitors through these sites and share their historical significance.


Study Monumental Structures: Gettysburg is home to numerous monuments and memorials dedicated to the soldiers who fought in the battle. Take the time to study these commemorative structures, understanding the symbolism and stories behind each one. Explore the inscriptions, statues, and plaques, as they often provide insights into the sacrifices made during the battle. Being able to share these stories and explain the meaning behind each monument adds depth and emotion to your tours.


Examine Interpretive Markers: Throughout the battlefield, you will find interpretive markers and signage that provide additional information about specific locations and historical events. These markers offer valuable insights into the battle and its aftermath. Study these markers to enhance your understanding and to be able to relay the information accurately to your tour participants.


Utilize Historical Maps: Historical maps can be invaluable resources in learning about the key locations and movements during the Battle of Gettysburg. Study these maps to visualize the positions of troops, the tactics employed, and the flow of the battle. Being able to reference these maps during your tours creates a visual connection for visitors, helping them to better comprehend the strategic elements of the battle.


Visit Key Locations and Monuments: Finally, immerse yourself in the battlefield by visiting key locations and monuments in person. Walk the grounds, explore the pathways, and take in the surroundings. By experiencing these places firsthand, you can develop a deeper connection to the history and convey a more genuine and authentic narrative to your tour participants.


By learning about the key locations and monuments at Gettysburg, you can guide visitors through a memorable and informative journey. Having a comprehensive understanding of these sites allows you to bring their stories to life, offering a meaningful exploration of the battlefield. Now let’s delve into the next crucial aspect of preparation: understanding the visitor experience at Gettysburg.


Understanding the Visitor Experience

As a Gettysburg tour guide, it is essential to understand and cater to the visitor experience. Each individual joining your tour comes with their own expectations and motivations for visiting the battlefield. Here are some key aspects to consider in order to provide a meaningful and memorable experience for every visitor:


Know Your Audience: Take the time to understand the demographics of your audience. Are they school groups, families, or history enthusiasts? Tailor your tour approach to cater to their specific interests and knowledge levels. This allows you to provide a more engaging and personalized experience.


Create a Welcoming Atmosphere: The visitor experience begins from the moment they join your tour. Create a warm and welcoming atmosphere, making visitors feel comfortable and excited to explore the battlefield with you. Engage in small talk, ask where they are from, and show genuine interest in their visit to Gettysburg.


Set the Context: Before diving into the specifics of the battle, provide visitors with a brief overview of the historical context. Explain the significance of the American Civil War, the importance of Gettysburg, and the impact it had on the nation. This sets the stage and allows visitors to better comprehend the events that unfolded on the battlefield.


Engage with Questions and Discussions: Encourage visitors to ask questions and participate in discussions. This creates an interactive experience where visitors feel involved and connected. Be open to different viewpoints and interpretations, fostering a respectful and educational dialogue during the tour.


Show Empathy and Sensitivity: The Battle of Gettysburg holds deep meaning for many visitors, as they may have ancestors who fought or lost their lives during the battle. Show empathy and understand the emotional impact that the battlefield may have on individuals. Be sensitive to their experiences and provide a safe and respectful space for reflection.


Provide Interpretation and Analysis: As a tour guide, your role is not just to recite facts but to offer interpretation and analysis of the events. Connect the dots between the battle strategies, key locations, and the overall outcome. Share stories of individual soldiers, highlighting their bravery and sacrifices. By offering meaningful insights, you elevate the visitor experience.


Offer Recommendations for Further Exploration: At the end of the tour, provide recommendations for further exploration. This may include suggesting additional monuments or sites to visit, recommending books or resources for further reading, or providing information about upcoming events or reenactments. Giving visitors tools to continue their exploration allows them to deepen their connection with Gettysburg beyond the tour.


Understanding the visitor experience is vital in creating a tour that resonates with individuals and leaves a lasting impression. By catering to the interests and needs of your audience, creating a welcoming environment, and providing interpretation and analysis, you can ensure a meaningful and engaging experience for every visitor.


Now, let’s move on to the next aspect of preparation: developing your public speaking skills.


Developing Public Speaking Skills

As a Gettysburg tour guide, effective public speaking skills are essential to engage and captivate your audience. Developing these skills will help you deliver a compelling and memorable tour experience. Here are some key steps to improve your public speaking abilities:


Practice Speaking with Confidence: Confidence is crucial when speaking in front of a group. Practice your tour narration in front of a mirror or record yourself to observe your delivery. Pay attention to your posture, voice projection, and gestures. The more you practice, the more comfortable and confident you will become.


Work on Voice Modulation: Varying your voice tone, pitch, and speed can add depth and emotion to your narration. Practice speaking slower or faster when appropriate, emphasize key points, and use pauses strategically to allow information to sink in. This will keep your audience engaged and enhance their overall experience.


Use Body Language and Gestures: Body language can convey enthusiasm and make your presentation more dynamic. Use gestures to emphasize key points and engage with your audience. Maintain eye contact with your listeners to establish a connection and show your genuine interest in their experience.


Tell Engaging Stories: Stories have the power to captivate an audience. Incorporate captivating anecdotes and personal stories related to the Battle of Gettysburg. By sharing these stories, you create a narrative that visitors can emotionally connect with, making the tour experience more memorable and impactful.


Be Adaptable to Different Learning Styles: People have various learning styles – visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Try to incorporate elements that cater to each style. Use visual aids such as maps or pictures, provide clear explanations, and encourage group activities or hands-on experiences when appropriate. Adapting your delivery to different learning styles ensures that all visitors can connect with the information you present.


Practice Time Management: Time management is crucial to ensure that you cover all the necessary content within the allotted time frame. Practice pacing yourself during your tour, making sure you allow sufficient time for questions and discussions. This skill ensures a balanced and well-managed tour experience.


Seek Feedback: Ask for feedback from fellow tour guides, supervisors, or even tour participants themselves. Constructive feedback can help you identify areas for improvement and refine your public speaking skills. Embrace feedback as an opportunity to grow and enhance your tour delivery.


Continuous Learning and Improvement: Public speaking is a skill that can always be improved. Attend workshops, seminars, or public speaking courses to further develop your abilities. Learn from experienced speakers and take inspiration from other tour guides who excel in their delivery. The more you consistently work on improving your public speaking skills, the more engaging and impactful your tours will become.


Developing strong public speaking skills will elevate your effectiveness as a Gettysburg tour guide. Confidence, voice modulation, storytelling, adaptability, time management, and continuous learning are key elements in building your expertise. Now let’s move on to the next aspect of preparation: mastering interpretation techniques.


Mastering Interpretation Techniques

Mastering interpretation techniques is crucial for delivering a meaningful and engaging tour experience as a Gettysburg tour guide. This involves translating historical facts into stories and narratives that inspire and educate visitors. Here are some key steps to master interpretation techniques:


Craft Compelling Narratives: Transform historical facts into captivating stories that resonate with your audience. Weave together the events, characters, and emotions from the Battle of Gettysburg to create a narrative that evokes empathy and understanding. By connecting visitors to the human side of history, you make the experience more memorable and relatable.


Highlight Personal Stories: Share personal stories of soldiers, civilians, and other individuals who experienced the Battle of Gettysburg firsthand. These personal accounts humanize the historical events and help visitors connect on a deeper level. By sharing the triumphs, struggles, and sacrifices of real people, you create a more immersive and emotional experience.


Use Vivid Descriptions: Paint a vivid picture of the battlefield and its surroundings through descriptive language. Use sensory details to help visitors envision the sights, sounds, and emotions experienced during the battle. Transport them back in time through your words, allowing them to truly immerse themselves in the historical setting.


Make Connections to the Present: Relate the historical events of the past to the present, highlighting the relevance and enduring impact of the Battle of Gettysburg. Draw parallels between the challenges and conflicts faced then and those that continue to shape our society today. By making these connections, you deepen visitors’ understanding of the battle’s significance and its relevance to contemporary issues.


Encourage Critical Thinking: Stimulate critical thinking by posing thought-provoking questions and encouraging visitors to analyze the decisions and outcomes of the battle. Foster a dialogue that challenges preconceived notions and encourages visitors to gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of the battle. This cultivates an environment of active learning and intellectual curiosity.


Utilize Visual and Audio Aids: Enhance your interpretation by incorporating visual and audio aids. Utilize maps, photographs, drawings, and audio recordings to provide additional context and visual stimulation. These aids help visitors visualize the historical events and deepen their comprehension of the battlefield and its significance.


Adapt to Different Learning Styles: Recognize that individuals have different learning styles and adapt your interpretation techniques accordingly. Provide visual aids for visual learners, engage in discussions for auditory learners, and incorporate hands-on activities for kinesthetic learners. By catering to different learning styles, you ensure that every visitor can connect with and absorb the information you present.


Continuously Refine Your Interpretation: Seek feedback from fellow guides, supervisors, and visitors to refine your interpretation techniques. Reflect on your tours and analyze what resonated with your audience and what could be improved. Embrace opportunities for professional development, attend workshops, and stay updated with new research and interpretations to enhance your interpretation skills continually.


Mastering interpretation techniques enhances the tour experience for visitors, bringing the Battle of Gettysburg to life in a meaningful and engaging way. By crafting compelling narratives, highlighting personal stories, using vivid descriptions, making connections to the present, encouraging critical thinking, utilizing visual and audio aids, adapting to different learning styles, and constantly refining your interpretation, you can create a transformative experience for every visitor. Now, let’s move on to the next step of preparation: obtaining official certification as a Gettysburg tour guide.


Obtaining Official Certification

Obtaining official certification is a crucial step in becoming a recognized and reputable Gettysburg tour guide. While certification is not mandatory, it provides validation of your knowledge and professionalism. Here are some key steps to obtain official certification:


Research Certification Programs: Begin by researching the various certification programs available for Gettysburg tour guides. The Gettysburg Foundation and the National Association for Interpretation (NAI) are two reputable organizations that offer certification opportunities. Explore their websites, requirements, and guidelines to determine which program aligns with your goals and aspirations.


Attend Training Workshops and Courses: Many certification programs offer training workshops and courses to enhance your knowledge and skills as a tour guide. Attend these sessions to gain a deeper understanding of the history, interpretive techniques, and guiding principles specific to Gettysburg. These workshops provide valuable insights and networking opportunities with fellow guides and experts in the field.


Complete Relevant Coursework: Some certification programs require completion of specific coursework related to Gettysburg’s history and interpretation. These courses may cover topics such as battlefield preservation, Civil War era culture, or interpretive techniques. Engage in these educational opportunities to expand your knowledge base and demonstrate your commitment to professional growth.


Pass Examinations or Assessments: To obtain certification, you may be required to pass examinations or assessments that test your knowledge and interpretive abilities. These exams can cover a range of topics, including the history of the Battle of Gettysburg, the significance of key locations, and interpretive techniques. Thoroughly prepare for these assessments to showcase your expertise.


Provide Demonstration Tours: Some certification programs may require you to provide a demonstration tour to assess your guiding skills. This allows evaluators to observe your interpretation techniques, public speaking abilities, and engagement with visitors. Be prepared to deliver a well-structured and informative tour that showcases your expertise and passion.


Maintain Continuing Education: After obtaining certification, it is important to engage in continuing education to stay updated with new research, interpretive methods, and historical perspectives. Attend conferences, seminars, and workshops to further enhance your knowledge and skills as a Gettysburg tour guide. Continued learning ensures that you provide the best possible experience for your visitors.


Obtaining official certification as a Gettysburg tour guide demonstrates your commitment to professionalism, expertise, and a high standard of guiding. It provides credibility and confidence to your visitors, assuring them that they are in the hands of a knowledgeable and reputable guide. While certification is not mandatory, it is highly recommended to enhance your career as a Gettysburg tour guide. Now, let’s conclude our exploration of the preparation needed to become an exceptional Gettysburg tour guide.



Becoming a Gettysburg tour guide requires a combination of passion, knowledge, and preparation. By investing time and effort in researching Gettysburg’s history, studying battle strategies, learning about key locations and monuments, understanding the visitor experience, honing your public speaking skills, mastering interpretation techniques, and obtaining official certification, you can become an exceptional guide who offers a transformative experience to visitors.


Thoroughly researching Gettysburg’s history enables you to provide accurate and engaging tours, while studying battle strategies helps you explain the tactical elements that shaped the outcome of the battle. Learning about key locations and monuments allows you to highlight their historical significance and emotional impact. Understanding the visitor experience ensures that you cater to the diverse needs and interests of your audience.


Developing strong public speaking skills and mastering interpretation techniques elevates your ability to captivate and connect with visitors, making the tour experience memorable and impactful. Finally, obtaining official certification provides validation of your knowledge and professionalism, instilling confidence in visitors and setting you apart as a reputable Gettysburg tour guide.


Embarking on this journey as a Gettysburg tour guide not only allows you to share your passion for history but also contributes to the preservation and appreciation of Gettysburg’s rich heritage. By immersing yourself in the profound stories of sacrifice, courage, and resilience that unfolded on these hallowed grounds, you have the opportunity to inspire and educate visitors from around the world.


So, as you prepare yourself to become a Gettysburg tour guide, immerse yourself in the history, develop your skills, and embrace the responsibility of carrying the legacy of the Battle of Gettysburg. With dedication, knowledge, and a genuine desire to educate and inspire, you can become a guide who brings history to life and creates an exceptional experience for all who visit this historic battlefield.