FORT HOOD, Texas - The next several months will be bittersweet for Steve Draper, director of Fort Hood Museums, as he packs up exhibits at the 1st Cavalry Division Museum, which once served as Camp Hood’s Post Exchange, before later being converted into the 1st Cavalry Museum in 1971.
The 1st Cavalry Division Museum and 3rd Cavalry Regiment Museum will close Oct. 1, as museum staff and volunteers begin the momentous process of disassembling the current exhibits to move to their new permanent home at the National Mounted Warrior Museum in 2022.
“I know people are going to be upset that the 1st Cav. and 3rd Cav. won’t have their own museums anymore, but the product that we’re going to provide is going to be well worth it,” Draper explained. “We’re still going to be telling their story. We’re going to be doing special exhibits. We’re also going to do educational programming in the future that will support 3rd Cav. and 1st Cav.”
Draper said the large undertaking will take months to complete. With four museum staff and borrowed military manpower, they will be converting the 3rd Cavalry Regiment Museum into the storage facility for the National Mounted Warrior Museum. He added that the process involves removing everything from the 1st Cavalry Division Museum, protecting items with plastic, then putting things back together at the new storage facility.
“In addition to that, we are working directly with the exhibit designer, who is designing the exhibits that we’re working on for the new museum,” Draper added.
The Army contracted Steve Feldman, an award-winning exhibition designer behind some of the country’s most famous museums, including the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Hampton Roads Naval Museum in Norfolk, Virginia, and Children’s Mercy Hospital Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, among others.
The museum director said he’s been working closely with Feldman to achieve the right vision.
“It’s going to be a chronological history of modern warfare. We’re using the 3rd Cav., Fort Hood and the 1st Cavalry Division to tell that story,” Draper said. “We’re going to tell deployments, as well as what was happening here at Fort Hood.”
The National Mounted Warrior Museum, dedicated to the Army’s mounted warriors, will replace the current exhibits at the 1st Cavalry Division Museum and the 3rd Cavalry Regiment Museum. The new museum will be approximately 58,000 square feet, when complete. Phase 1 of the museum is 29,000 square feet and includes 13,000 square feet of permanent exhibit space. Once completed, the exhibit space will total 38,000 square feet. Together, the current museums total 6,000 square feet of exhibit space, which will allow the National Mounted Warrior Museum to have more than six times the current exhibits.
The first temporary exhibit planned for the new museum is a traveling exhibit showcasing World War II combat cartoonist Bill Malden, who was attached to the 45th Infantry Division out of Oklahoma. His cartoons were published in the 45th Division News, before he was assigned as a cartoonist for the Stars and Stripes. Malden won two Pulitzer Prizes for his famous cartoons.
In addition to the physical exhibits, Draper said they would also be incorporating electronic devices into the new museum in the form of audio and video content. He said they have also been working with the 1st Cav. Div. Band, who recorded the “Tank Destroyer March” for them to use to help provide another level of sensory stimulation.
Draper said they are looking for volunteers who would like to assist with the move, guest speakers for educational programs at the new museum, as well as volunteers to serve as docents. Those wanting to volunteer may call (254) 287-4198.
The National Mounted Warrior Museum is tentatively scheduled for a soft opening in June 2022, followed by a grand opening in the late summer of 2023.
“We’ve got some really neat ideas and I think people will be very happy with the exhibits,” Draper said. “As (the new museum) ... continues to add on, we’ll only get bigger and better.”