Deep within the archives of the Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center, nestled between historical documents and archeological battlefield treasures, four Medals of Honor are tucked away.
Recently, museum specialist Paul Shevchuk _ one of three people at the museum who handle the artifacts in the collection _ brought the medals out to breathe.
His hands swathed in white cotton gloves, Shevchuk carefully pulled a small leather box from its case and placed it on a metal examining table. Inside was one of the first Medals of Honor in its original design.
The bronze was slightly tarnished and the ribbon was frayed. Almost 150 years ago, in October 1864, President Abraham Lincoln presented it to Color Sgt. Daniel P. Reigle.
The medal was awarded to Reigle for his actions at the Battle of Cedar Creek, but Gettysburg is an appropriate home for it because Reigle was born in Adams County and lived in Littlestown after the war. He is buried in Mount Carmel Cemetery in Littlestown.
The other medals in the Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center collection were awarded for action in the Battle of Gettysburg. In less than two weeks, as many as 79 other medals may make their way to Gettysburg when the annual Medal of Honor Convention is held at the Wyndham Gettysburg Hotel from Sept. 18-21.
All 79 living recipients of the medal are invited, and about 50 are expected to attend, said Bob Monahan, president and CEO of the convention.
Several events will be open to the public, though they will require tickets, Monahan said.
However, the National Park Service's collection of Medals of Honor will remain locked away in the archives during the convention.
In addition to Reigle's medal -- donated to the museum as part of the Rosensteel collection -- medals awarded to two other Civil War veterans are in the collection.
Sgt. Wallace W. Johnson, Company G, 6th Pennsylvania Reserves, was awarded the medal for actions July 2, 1863. He and five others charged on a number of enemy sharpshooters concealed in a log house, captured them and brought them back to the Union lines. Johnson's medal was issued in 1900.
Lt. James J. Purman, Company A, 140th Pennsylvania Infantry, was awarded the medal for actions July 2, 1863, when he voluntarily assisted a wounded comrade. According to the citation, Purman was wounded while helping the soldier, and his left leg had to be amputated. Purman's medal was issued in 1896.
In 1904, the Medal of Honor was redesigned, and those who had received the medal previously were presented with the newer version. Both versions of Johnson's medal are in the collection at the Gettysburg museum.
Shevchuk said Purman's and Johnson's medals were donated in recent years, and they have not been on display in the museum. Reigle's medal was on display for several years until 2012.
There are no plans to put them on display for the Medal of Honor Conference.
"They're on vacation,'' Shevchuk said, explaining that artifacts need time to rest, much like people do. Exposing objects to light and other elements when they're on display in a museum setting can hurt the medals. It's important to rotate objects and collections on display at the museum, he said.
Plus, Katie Lawhon, management assistant for Gettysburg National Military Park, pointed out that those attending the Medal of Honor conference will be bringing their own medals with them.