FORT BELVOIR, Va. -- With doors expected to open next year, the National Museum of the United States Army is quickly coming to life.
Located on an 84-acre hilltop site at Fort Belvoir, just south of the nation's capital, the 185,000-square-foot gleaming, stainless-steel structure will offer free admission to the public and give a comprehensive look at more than 240 years of Army history and traditions.
The museum's goal is "telling the Army's story to an estimated 750,000 visitors every year," said Tammy E. Call, museum director, and "creating new opportunities for the public to connect with the American Soldier."
The museum is also dedicated to "remembering and honoring their legacies," Call said, of Soldiers and veterans.
"This will be America's Army museum," she added, "telling the Soldier's story 364 days a year."
The museum will immerse visitors into "what it means to be a Soldier" in times of war and peace throughout American history.
The primary galleries are titled, Soldiers' Stories Gallery, Army and Society Gallery, and Fighting for the Nation Galleries. Each gallery will have artifacts, films, documents, and lifelike Soldier figures.
Visitors will learn about Army history through Soldier stories from America's colonial beginning, and lead through the generations of service to the ground force it is today.
The first four macro artifacts -- a FT-17 tank, a Sherman tank, a Higgins boat used during the D-Day invasion, and a Bradley Fighting Vehicle -- were installed in August 2017, before the building's walls were built. Since then, a Sikorsky R-4B helicopter and a UH-1B Huey helicopter were installed in February 2019.
The macros were all used in battle, and are chronologically placed to visually tell the Army's history, through every major conflict.
The museum will also include the Experiential Learning Center, or ELC, a Medal of Honor Experience and a rotating exhibit gallery. Future exterior elements include a memorial garden, army trail, and outdoor event space, according to a museum official.
The ELC will provide hands-on learning activities in geography, science, technology, engineering, and math, or G-STEM, which visitors can apply to a simulated Army humanitarian mission, said museum public affairs assistant, Kate Wacker.
"It's something for all ages to enjoy," she added.
The design of the museum evokes the principles of the Army: it is disciplined, modest, and rigorous, according to the project description, adding the simplicity and sharpness of the walls and huge windows allow reflections to be cast on the facade, transforming the character of the building through every season and time of day.
The museum is scheduled to open in 2020. The museum is also recruiting volunteers now to be trained and ready before the first visitors arrive. For more information, call 1-800-506-2672.