New Building Opens At National World War II Museum


Voorsanger Mathes is the architectural firm for the Freedom Pavilion and every other part of the museum’s $300 million expansion. The general contractor is Woodward Design + Build; Gallagher & Associates designed the exhibits.

The Freedom Pavilion’s dominant feature is a floor-to-ceiling sheet of glass that will let visitors see the airplanes hanging by steel cables from the ceiling, which is 96 feet above the building’s concrete floor.

The biggest is the Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress, a 30,160-pound plane nicknamed My Gal Sal.

Hovering nearby are the General Motors TBM-3 Avenger, similar to the plane that President George H.W. Bush flew in the Pacific Theater, and the North American P-51D Mustang, a replica of the aircraft flown by the Tuskegee Airmen.

Visitors can do more than gaze upon these leviathans. Catwalks provide close-up looks, and controls attached to video consoles provide a virtual tour of each plane’s cockpit.

More interactive displays are in a darkened space called Command Central that is just off one of the elevated walkways. Three tabletops have two high-definition monitors apiece where visitors can navigate through 15 major battles and campaigns that helped bring about an Allied victory.

In that war, 464 service members were awarded the Medal of Honor, 266 of them posthumously. Their photographs adorn two high walls, and museum visitors can read their stories via a touch-screen system.

In a sharp contrast to the exhibits on the air war is a display called Final Mission, in which 27 visitors at a time can, through a wraparound screen and sound and motion effects, get an idea of what it was like aboard the submarine USS Tang on its last mission. The Tang was engaged in a battle with Japanese ships; the floor vibrates when a torpedo is fired. The last torpedo went awry, circled back and hit the Tang, which sank to the sea bottom, 180 feet below.

Of the 87 crewmen, only nine survived, said Keith Huxen, the museum’s director of research and history.

During the war, leaders and service members were constantly confronted with ethical questions, ranging from big topics – dropping the atomic bomb and forcing Japanese-American citizens into internment camps, for example – to personal issues, such as a black soldier’s quandary over whether to try once again to enlist after a racist officer turned him away.

Ten such situations are presented on two large screens in the atrium. In keeping with this exhibit’s title – “What Would You Do?” – spectators get a chance to vote on tablets, and the responses are tabulated and posted.

The exhibits are big – outsize, even – and Mueller acknowledged that. “We think this is one of the biggest stories in American history,” he said, “and we have to tell it right.”

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Posted by on Feb 1st, 2013 and filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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