The National Museum of the United States Army is scheduled to open its doors to the public on June 4, 2020.
The National Museum of the United States Army will be the first museum to cover the Army’s entire 244-year history. There are other branch-specific or conflict-specific museums such as the Infantry Museum at Fort Benning, Georgia, and the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.
Like other D.C.-area museums, admission for the Fort Belvoir, Virginia, museum will be open for free to the public on a timed-entry ticket system. Museum officials expect as many as 750,000 visitors in the facility’s first year.
The museum will tell the Army’s story through soldier stories. The narrative begins with the earliest militias and continues to present day, according to an Army release.
“The Army has served American citizens for 244 years, protecting the freedoms that are precious to all of us. Millions of people have served in the Army, and this museum gives us the chance to tell their stories to the public and show how they have served our nation and our people,” said acting Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy in an Army release.
The facility will have historic displays but planners say a major focus of the museum’s Army and Society Gallery will house stories of Army innovations and the relationship between the Army, its civilian government and the people.
“To those who have already taken off the uniform, the museum will be a revered place of reflection. For those serving today, the museum will put their service into historical context, showing its place in the Army’s proud legacy dating back to its establishment in 1775, and even earlier to 1636 with the creation of the colonial militias that would become the National Guard,” wrote retired Army Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, 32nd chief of staff of the Army and chairman of the Army Historical Foundation, in Army Times in 2018.
“To the soldiers of the future, the museum will be an educational institution and source of inspiration,” Sullivan wrote.
An Experiential Learning Center will include an interactive learning space for visitors to do hands-on geography, science, technology, engineering and math (G-STEM) learning and team-building activities.
“This state-of-the art museum will engage visitors in the Army’s story — highlighting how the Army was at the birth of our nation over 240 years ago, and how it continues to influence our everyday lives,” said Tammy E. Call, museum director.
The museum is a joint effort between the U.S. Army and the Army Historical Foundation, a non-profit organization. The Army Historical Foundation is constructing the building through private funds, according to the release.
The U.S. Army is providing the infrastructure, roads, utilities and exhibit work that transform the building into a museum.
The Army will own and operate the museum 364 days a year. It will be closed Christmas Day.
The building will feature 185,000 square feet of museum space, a theater, state-of-the-art technology for dramatic historical exhibits and the interactive Experiential Learning Center.
One item already in place in the building is a 27-ton Bradley Fighting Vehicle, which was the first “macro artifact” put in place as the building was being constructed in 2018. The M3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicle was the lead vehicle in the 2003 charge from Kuwait to Baghdad, Iraq.
The museum has faced some delays. Following construction approval that involved an environmental assessment at the site regarding the impact on a type of long-eared bat, groundbreaking was scheduled for mid-April 2016 with construction set to be complete for opening in 2019.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.