FORT DRUM, N.Y. (June 22, 2022) -- With easier accessibility and a greater capacity to showcase history, community members gathered June 21 to celebrate the reopening of the 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum Museum in its new location.
Col. Matthew Braman, 10th Mountain Division (LI) deputy commander for support, served as guest speaker for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“This is an important day for this community,” he said. “It bridges the gap for all of us who live, work and train here at Fort Drum and to the average person who can pull off to the side of the road and say, ‘I wonder what is inside that museum?’ We are here to celebrate that.”
Braman said that when he first visited the new museum, he was impressed by the breadth of 10th Mountain Division history it covers.
“But it tells the story of the North Country as well, and that’s the part I didn’t know,” he said. “That’s the story, when I came in through here, I didn’t expect to see. It tells the story of what happened here before the first Soldiers stepped on this land.”
Charles Bowery Jr, executive director of the U.S. Army Center of Military History, said the museum honors one of the most storied divisions in the Army. As the Army’s chief historian, he said that there is no template for what an Army museum should look like, but that they are all outgrowths of their surrounding communities.
“This is your history,” he said. “Now more than ever, it is essential that our Army leaders use all of the tools at their disposal to foster a sense of pride, resiliency and belonging in every Soldier, family member and Army civilian. The Army’s history and our museums are perfect resources for units and communities to do this. So my challenge for all of you today is to keep this facility busy.”
Sepp Scanlin, museum director, said that while their mission has always been to tell the history of the 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum, the new facility allows them a deeper dive into that story.
“For one, the museum itself is more accessible – people are coming through the door without first having to enter post,” he said. “But we have also made this history more accessible in the sense that before there was a lot of focus on individual items, as opposed to a broader telling of the story. We think we’ve been able to do that with the combination of the text, the artifacts and the photos to tell a broader, more inclusive story. I think people will leave with a better appreciation of the history of the installation and division.”
Scanlin said that, with more exhibit space, they have been able to fill gaps in the history that previously went untold at the museum.
“There was nothing representing women in service, and we weren’t showcasing that diversity in service, which was a shame because it’s there,” he said. “It’s not that we chose to exclude them, but we were able to make some deliberate decisions with the space we now have that makes it more prominent, which I am very proud of as well.”
Visitors who have explored the museum since its soft opening in March will notice a few expanded exhibits and new items. Scanlin said that many visitors have noticed the network of green wires overhead, which prompted a new placard bearing an explanation.
“It has been the No. 1 question we’ve had so far,” he said. “But a lot of people are saying that every time they visit the museum they see something new.”
Regarding the overhead colored cable, he said it is a requirement to indicate that hardware is on an unclassified network.
Another addition was made to the 1940-41 Pine Camp Expansion exhibit, where people can now look up their relatives who lived in one of the Lost Villages.
Scanlin, a former 10th Mountain Division (LI) officer, said that he fostered an appreciation for history at an early age.
“My first job out of the house, when I was a junior high school student, was as a volunteer at a science museum,” he said. “I have always been doing museum type stuff, and then as a Soldier I had an interest in military history. Throughout my military career whenever I had the capacity, I would seek out volunteer opportunities at local museums.”
In fact, Scanlin had volunteered at the Fort Drum museum for a couple of months in 2004 before he moved to a new duty station. After 21 years in the Army, Scanlin was volunteering at a museum when he decided to make a career out of what he loved doing most. He eventually earned a master’s in museum studies from Johns Hopkins University.
“I’ve always been a history buff and a museum guy,” he said. “But I have a greater appreciation of what it can do for Soldiers now, looking at it from this angle as a museum director.”
Along with Kent Bolke, museum curator, Scanlin likens their mission at the museum to the Military Mountaineer Monument at Memorial Park. The statue depicts a World War II Soldier reaching down to help a modern-day Soldier on the “Climb to Glory.”
“Just like the monument, the climb is not finished, nor is our history,” he said. “What I tell Soldiers is that something they will do here will contribute to the proud history of this division. It may not end up on a wall in the museum, but they are going to contribute to the story. And some day, I hope that they will bring their grandchildren here to tell their part of the story.”
Scanlin said that seeing the multiyear relocation project finally come to fruition has been a rewarding experience, and that he hopes it draws a closer connection between Fort Drum and the surrounding communities.
“To be perfectly blunt, this is probably the highlight of my career,” Scanlin said. “Having served for 21 years and being a museum professional for six, there are very few opportunities to move and recraft an entire museum. At the end of the day, the fact that we were able to do this – make it more accessible to more people and broaden the scope of how we tell the Army story – is a career highlight. I hope that the visitors and the Fort Drum community are as proud of what we did as we are, because they are the true judges and benefactors.”
To learn more about the 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum Museum, visit https://history.army.mil/museums/fieldMuseums/fortDrum/index.html and www.facebook.com/FortDrumMuseum.