Belvoir site chosen for Army Museum
June 23, 2011
In the coming years, Soldiers’ stories will unfold on Fort Belvoir like never before, as the Army announced Friday that Belvoir’s North Post area is the definite site of the National Museum of the U.S. Army, after years of speculation and delays.
The museum’s theme is “Every Soldier has a Story to Tell” according to retired Col. Dave Fabian, Army Historical Foundation director of communications and public affairs. Construction of the museum will be privately through the foundation " a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the Army’s heritage.
The announcement is a signal that “we can break ground, which we expect to do in spring 2012, with a target open date of June 14, 2015,” said Fabian.
“In presenting the Army’s storied 236-year history, this long-overdue facility will offer the American people a unique opportunity to connect with our Soldiers and better understand and appreciate their many and glorious stories,” said, John McHugh, secretary of the Army, in his announcement.
“Now that a site for the Army’s museum has been determined, the development of the museum’s master plan can be finalized,” said Judson Bennett, NMUSA project office, executive director at Belvoir.
Initial construction will include a multi-story, main museum building with exhibit halls a theater; Veterans’ Hall; food service, retail and administrative areas; an experiential learning center and a lobby with visitor reception area.
“Originally, the museum site was planned for near Pence Gate. Then, the (base realignment and closure) decisions came down, which used that space. Then, it was going to be on the Engineer Proving Ground (now known as Fort Belvoir North Area), which was found to not have enough public accessibility,” Fabian said.
Fabian hesitated when trying to pinpoint what the museum’s best feature will be.
“If I had to choose, I think it’d be the Soldier Stories Gallery, which will be in the museum’s entrance,” he said. “It’ll set the theme and tone for the whole museum.”
Fabian also lauded the Army’s decision to choose Fort Belvoir as the museum’s site.
“The National Capital Region is a tourist mecca, with more of the American public and international visitors coming to D.C., than to any other American city,” he said. “Here at Belvoir, we are just 16 miles from D.C., close to the Navy and Marine Corps museums and to the memorials and monuments in the area. Additionally, we’re only six miles from Mount Vernon … George Washington’s home. That is why Belvoir is the ideal location.”
Fabian said the Army started with 64 locations for its museum, then whittled it down to eight locations and then to three " Belvoir; Fort Meade, Md.; and Carlisle Barracks, Pa.
“The Army has around 40 museums that are specific to a division or a specialty or are regional,” Fabian said. “They don’t tell the comprehensive story that this museum at Belvoir will tell. However, this is definitely not an attempt to cannibalize any of those existing museums. We fully expect to work hand-in-hand with all of those museums and create a mutual loaner program.”
Another unique feature of the museum will be the gallery called The Army and Society.
“It’ll concentrate on the Army’s non-defense support of society,” Fabian said. “It’ll include information on medical transportation, support of communities, advancing the nation’s aviation system and technologies.
“Night-Vision Goggles, space research, the GPS and computing are all part of what the Army’s contributed to society,” he said.
So far the Army Historical Foundation has received almost $60 million in donations for the museum, Fabian added.
“We expect the project will need $155 million to open and then the museum’s design includes opportunities for expansion,” he said.
“I think the site being named will help fundraising considerably,” Fabian said. “Now that the museum’s more of a reality here, I think donors may relax their apprehensions about donating to the museum.”
The Army is the only service without a centralized museum. The Navy museum is at the Navy Yard in Washington D.C.; the Marine Corps museum is at the Marine Corps Base Quantico in Prince William County, Va.; and the Air Force Museum is at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
Editor’s note: The Department of Defense contributed to this story.