Army Museum May Open in 2016

Within the next four years, Northern Virginia's second world-class military museum will rise from a 41-acre site at Fort Belvoir.

Assuming the fundraising goes as planned, the National Museum of the United States Army will join the National Museum of the Marine Corps, about 20 miles to the south off Interstate 95. It opened in November 2006.

Dave Fabian, a retired Army colonel and spokesman for the Army museum, says the Army Historical Foundation has raised about $65 million of the approximately $155 million needed to complete the project.

"So we're almost halfway there, and we've got some very good prospects" for additional donations by year's end, Fabian said Tuesday.

The fundraising campaign began in 2003 and was delayed by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission. That shifted substantial growth to Fort Belvoir in southern Fairfax County. Another factor was site selection. Two sites were considered before the current parcel along Fairfax County Parkway was chosen.

Fabian said the site will be dedicated next spring, with a groundbreaking planned in 2014. The Army Corps of Engineers is the builder.

Fabian says the museum could open in time for the Army's 241st birthday in June 2016, and possibly earlier. The Army was established June 14, 1775.

Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP, a global architectural firm, is doing the design work, which Fabian said is nearly complete. Meanwhile, the museum's exhibit-design team is ready to turn over most of its plans to fabricators, Fabian said.

Christopher Chadbourne & Associates of Boston, which designed exhibits for the Marine Corps museum, was initially selected to handle the planning, design, and fabrication of the museum's galleries and exhibits. Another company, Kansas City-based Eisterhold Associates, has taken over that task.

Visitors will pass through three galleries in the main museum building, which will encompass about 175,000 square feet. (The Marine museum's main building is about 118,000 square feet.) The Fighting for the Nation gallery, Fabian said, "will be a complete historical chronology of the Army, from the Revolutionary War forward."

The Soldiers' Stories gallery at the entrance, "will set the theme and tone, with individual stories from every era since 1775."

Finally, the Army in Society gallery, "will tell the history of how the Army advanced the nation, culture and technology, in terms of medicine, transportation--you name it."

None of the other 42 accredited Army museums, he said, has that feature, what he calls "the Army's advancement of the nation."

The museum will display selections from the Army Art Collection and 30,000 artifacts--including a World War I tank--documents and images.

It will have a theater-in-the-round and a learning center that will be part of an educational pavilion sponsored by Lockheed Martin.

Also planned: a canteen-style dining area, gift shop, and on the upper floor, a rooftop Medal of Honor garden. Indoors, there will be a space for veterans to hold special meetings, dinners and the like.

A later, second phase of the project will include a parade ground, amphitheater and memory garden on the surrounding property.

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