A Civil War diorama built for a Texas museum by Gilbert students and teachers was not destroyed, a museum spokesman said this week.
Instead, Col. Bill Meehan of the Texas Military Forces Museum said the diorama depicting the Battle at Palmetto Ranch was carefully “dismantled” so the pieces could be reused. He said the museum had no other choice because the $23,000 diorama built at Highland High School contained historical inaccuracies.
“The diorama was not destroyed,” Meehan said. “Because of the historical inaccuracies, it was not suitable for viewing.”
Meehan said the Battle at Palmetto Ranch was fought on the coast on flat terrain, while the diorama portrayed a mountainous background. But Meehan said he didn’t want to focus too much on the inaccuracies.
“We think the world of our partners in Arizona,” Meehan said. “We didn’t mean for this to be an insult.”
Meehan said the 10-foot by 5-foot diorama, which was funded by the museum, was also too big for display.
“It was mostly just the size,” Meehan said. “It was too big for the display room.”
He said all the pieces have been stored, and the museum plans on using them in other displays.
Museum director Jeff Hunt, who made the decision to dismantle to diorama, was unavailable for comment. He did not return several phone calls from the Tribune, and the museum staff declined to say when he would be available.
Wallace J. Savoy, a retired officer and member of the museum association, said he was one of the original people who found the dismantled diorama covered by a blue tarp. He said the diorama looked like it had been destroyed in anger.
“It looked like someone took an arm across it,” Savoy said.
Highland High history teacher Glen Frakes, who supervised construction of the diorama, said photographs taken after the incident showed that some of the arms and legs of the tiny soldiers had been ripped off.
Frakes said the Highland students painted the soldiers by hand, and the project took about 6,000 hours to complete over a period of three-and-a-half years.
He said his students used a book that Hunt wrote on the Battle at Palmetto Ranch as a reference for the diorama.
“To the best of our ability, we were trying to put it together with the help of his book,” Frakes said.