The countdown is on to the grand opening of the National Museum of the United States Army on Veterans Day.
On Thursday, members of the media got a sneak peek at the 185,000 square foot facility in a publicly accessible area outside of Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
As she stood outside the building, Museum Director Tammy E. Call said she felt a sense of pride, satisfaction and honor.
“I hope that our visitors walk away from visiting here with the knowledge that our soldiers are a reflection of our society and that they see themselves in the stories of the soldiers they are going to learn about in this museum,” she said.
The museum had planned to open earlier this year, but the coronavirus pandemic prevented that.
“The National Army Museum will be a place for members of the total Army family to gather and share their stories, while also creating an opportunity for visitors to connect with our nation’s history through the eyes and voices of individual soldiers,” Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy earlier said.
Limited to about 80 words, individual Soldiers Stories of service lead visitors into the museum through a promenade to the glass-fronted galleries.
“Just that personal connection is amazing,” said Call.
The facility’s galleries tell the story of the founding of the nation through the Civil War, World War I, World War II and the Cold War. The last gallery is called Changing World, which covers the period roughly from 1990 to now.
The experiential learning center allows visitors of all ages to participate in hands-on, educational and team-building activities in the areas of geography, science, technology, engineering and math.
The museum is a joint effort between the U.S. Army and the Army Historical Foundation, a non-profit organization. The AHF constructed the building through private funds, and the U.S. Army provided the infrastructure, roads, utilities and exhibit work that transformed the building into a museum. The Army owns and operates the museum, and the AHF manages retail, catering and special events.
“What we have here is just a neat way of saying thanks to soldiers who have served our Army, families who have served our Army and Army civilians who made our Army what it is today,” said AHF President and retired Lt. Gen. Roger Schultz. “It’s a chance for us to honor the American soldier. As we tell the Army story, we also tell our nation’s story.”
Schultz said the facility focuses on the soldier’s perspective.
“You’ll see the photographs, you’ll see the stories, you’ll hear the audio clips, see the video clips,” he said.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the museum was held on March 8, 2017.
Enhanced health and safety measures will be in place for visitors. Free, timed-entry tickets are required to manage visitor capacity and provide an optimal experience.
“We have taken all the CDC recommended mitigation measures, they are in place,” said Call. “We require all visitors to be in masks, maintain distance.”
The opening will be preceded by a small ceremony that will be live-streamed. A link to the live stream will be posted on the museum’s website and social channels as soon as it’s available.