For several years now, the Army Historical Foundation has been raising money for the new Museum of the United States Army to be constructed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. A recent article in Army Times helped to spread the word that conceptual renderings of what the new museum will look like are available. This pdf provides some of the details of the planned museum and renderings of what the concept looks like.
The Army has donated 55 acres of land on Fort Belvoir, just outside of Washington, D.C. and has also paid for site preparation and some “design activities.” The remainder of the $300 million for the project is the responsibility of the Army Historical Foundation. So far the foundation has raised $64 million, most of which has been donated by defense contractors. About $3 million has come from the sale of commemorative coins. Groundbreaking is tentatively scheduled for mid-2013 with and anticipated opening date sometime in 2015.
There has been some controversy around the building of this museum. On the upside, the new museum will provide a one-stop location to teach the public about the 236-year history of the United States Army and its contribution to the building of the nation. Located in the D.C. metro area, the Foundation (according to the Army Times article) expects to receive from 750,000 to 1 million visitors to the museum each year. Obviously they estimate a large spinoff of visitors from other D.C. attractions.
Some of the criticisms of course have to do with cost, who is paying for it, what other facilities will close in order to support this project, and the fact that the Army has a long list of other, more specialized, museums. For example in Virginia alone there is currently operating the Corps of Engineers Museum in Alexandria, the Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, the Casemate Museum at Fort Monroe, and the Army Women’s Museum, the Army Ordnance Museum, as well as the Army Quartermaster Museum, all at Fort Lee, Virginia. There is also the Airborne and Special Operations Museum at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and in recent years, the Armor Museum at Fort Knox was moved and co-located with the Infantry Museum at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Personally, I was disappointed that the museum was going to be built in already congested, over-crowded Washington, D.C. I had hoped that the Foundation would put the Museum of the U.S. Army near one of our larger bases, like Fort Hood, or Fort Lewis (Washington State doesn't have an operating Army museum), or maybe in a city that could use the economic stimulus. The opening of this museum really affected me when rumors came about that the Army was considering closing the Army Heritage and Education Center here in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, moving the archives to the Army Center for Military History (again in D.C.) and their museum artifacts to the new museum at Fort Belvoir. As you can imagine, I’m a museum fanatic and I’m glad that the Museum of the United States Army is being built. But we must be aware of what the “hidden” costs of this project are and protect what we’ve already built.