WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Museum of the United States Army was originally set to open its doors in June 2020. But the COVID-19 pandemic shifted everything around, forcing the D.C. area’s newest museum to open later than expected last Veteran’s Day. Now, after rising cases closed the museum last December, they are back open full-time.
“We’re really excited to open our doors not only to our veterans and currently-serving soldiers, but to the American public,” said Susan Smullen, public affairs officer at the National Museum of the U.S. Army.
Once inside, visitors will learn more about the Army’s 245-year history, and its role in the nation’s history, from the Revolutionary war to the War on Terrorism. The museum is laid out almost like a mall where you can do a little window-shopping of sorts to see what interests you before you head inside to check out the full exhibit. That feature was intentional, Smullen said.
“It’s a really wonderful way that if you only have enough time to walk the concourse, you’ll still feel like you’ve been able to explore what the museum would offer in that historic timeline,” she said.
The museum is more than just artifacts – and there are some pretty noteworthy items, like this Vietnam-era Huey helicopter or weapons from colonial militias. But curators here make the experience more personal by sharing soldiers’ stories along the way. Visitors can actually begin reading a veteran’s profile outside the complex.
“Now you know who carried that artifact, where that artifact had been, and what it had experienced with that soldier as a part of history,” Smullen said.
A lot of the exhibits at the museum are also interactive. For example, you have electronic exhibit displays, a sliding monitor, that will tell you each artifact behind the glass and the history of it.
“There’s a little bit something for everyone depending on the type of visit and visitor experience you’d like to have,” Smullen said.
The museum itself is located near an Army base, Ft. Belvoir in Virginia, about 15 miles outside of Washington, D.C. Plus, another fun fact: The Army is the oldest branch of the military, but it’s the last the branch to have its own museum. It gives long-time visitors to D.C. a chance to see something new, and for everyone to learn more about the men and women in uniform.
“Army history is America’s history,” Smullen said. “The Army was here at the birth of our nation.”
Author’s Note: This week, WNY News Now is launching its “Reopening D.C.” series to learn how some of the top tourist destinations in the Washington, D.C. area are reopening their doors to visitors this summer during the COVID-19 pandemic, and also to offer viewers a virtual tour of these locations.