MSC-A: Supporting U.S. Army museums
Christel Sanchez looks at a drumstick from the Maple Leaf Collection of artifacts from a steam boat which sank in the Saint Johns River in April 1864 during the American Civil War. More than 3,000 well-preserved artifacts were recovered from the wreckage, 500 of which are in the care of the Museum Support Center-Anniston. (Photo Credit: Jennifer Bacchus, ANAD Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- On the west side of Anniston Army Depot is the U.S. Army’s Museum Support Center at Anniston.

Depot employees and individuals throughout the surrounding communities are probably aware of the installation facilities maintaining U.S. military vehicles. However, many are unaware of MSC-A’s role in maintaining the history of the U.S. Army.

MSC-A’s mission is to receive, store, account for and issue artifacts for the 47 museums in the Army Museum Enterprise, located throughout the U.S. and around the world.

To accomplish this mission, MSC-A utilizes five climate-controlled buildings and several outside storage lots to house more than 126,000 artifacts and 65,000 items of deactivating unit historical property.

This collection contains U.S. and foreign military artifacts, swords and other edged weapons from the U.S. colonial era to the present, U.S. Army uniforms worn in Iraq, military vehicles from different time periods and much more.

MSC-A: Supporting U.S. Army museums
John Gurner inspects a M1921 Thompson machine gun at the Museum Support Center-Anniston. Gloves are necessary to handle all artifacts, to ensure they aren’t damaged. (Photo Credit: Jennifer Bacchus, ANAD Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

To manage this collection, MSC-A utilizes skills such as museum curation, record keeping, art history, military equipment history, photography, materials conservation and more to monitor the artifacts.

Each of the MSC-A’s nine employees provides a specialization which keeps operations running smoothly.

MSC-A’s primary building acts as the administrative headquarters of MSC-A and houses more than 88,000 artifacts. Among this collection are more than 11,000 small arms dating from the Revolutionary War to modern day.

Being the only building not located in the restricted area, the headquarters serves as the face of the MSC-A. Its climate-controlled docking area allows staff to inspect newly arrived artifacts without the risk of exposing the collection to harmful contaminants, such as mold.

Once an artifact is brought into MSC-A’s collection, its physical and digital records are added to approximately 143,000 artifact records.

MSC-A: Supporting U.S. Army museums
A Stryker vehicle known as General Lee is one of many large artifacts preserved at the Museum Support Center-Anniston. The vehicle was damaged in Iraq by an improvised explosives device, repaired at Anniston Army Depot in 2007 and then returned to service in Afghanistan, Germany and Poland. (Photo Credit: Jennifer Bacchus, ANAD Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

Several of the U.S. Army’s museums do not have the storage capacity or climate-controlled facilities to maintain artifacts not being exhibited. To remedy this, MSC-A’s newest facility, opened in March 2016, serves as a long-term storage facility for the overflow of museum collections.

By organizing artifacts with respect to each museum, the staff is able to efficiently locate, pack and ship any artifact the owning museums request.

MSC-A also stores more than 130 U.S. and foreign military vehicles, including motorcycles, troop transports, helicopters, self-propelled artillery and tanks.

Like the rest of the artifacts at MSC-A, U.S. Army museums can request these vehicles to be displayed at their facilities.

One of the most recent tasks assigned to MSC-A is to downsize its collection of surplus inventory. To do this, the staff researches the condition, history and quantity of each artifact to determine if an artifact should remain as part of the AME’s overall collection and, if so, how many should be kept.

When an item is deemed excess to the needs of the collection and is selected for removal, the center works closely with the Defense Logistics Agency’s Disposition Services and demilitarization operations to remove surplus items from the collection.

The work at MSC-A is ongoing. There is always another collection to inventory, another artifact to send to a museum and another vehicle to research. Through these daily activities, the U.S. Army can be reassured its material history is well cared for in capable hands.