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Hard Hat Tour: National Veterans Memorial & Museum

Brent Warren Brent Warren Hard Hat Tour: National Veterans Memorial & MuseumPhoto by Brent Warren.
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The National Veterans Memorial & Museum is starting to take shape on the Scioto Peninsula. The unique building’s concrete shell is now in place and the surrounding land is being shaped to eventually hold 250 trees, a reflecting pool and a network of walking paths.

Amy Taylor of the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation (CDDC), which is managing the project, recently gave Columbus Underground a hard hat tour of the site.

Taylor is hopeful that the project can be completed in time for a grand opening celebration on or around July 4th, 2018.

“We think that would be an appropriate celebration,” she said, adding that heavy construction work will continue for the rest of this year, with an exhibit facilitator scheduled to begin work early in 2018. The actual media and artifacts that make up the content of the museum won’t be installed until May or June of next year.

The centerpiece of the building’s interior is a three-story, circular atrium framed by a ramp that winds its way to the top of the space.

Taylor explained that visitors will see documents and letters on the walls as they walk up the ramp, part of an exhibit called “Dear America.” Hanging from the ceiling of the atrium will be a large screen – visible from all angles – that will show a short film meant to be the “culmination of a narrative journey, an immersive media experience in the literal and figurative heart of the building.”

The team designing the museum and its exhibits has tried to keep the focus squarely on veterans and their stories.

“It’s not a war memorial, it’s not a war museum…there is no hanging B-52 bomber,” said Taylor. “It’s the stories of the people who served. The technology, medicine, weaponry – all those things have changed, but what’s stayed the same? Reading a letter from a Revolutionary War mother to her son who went away, it evokes the same emotions as one from a mom whose child is serving in Afghanistan.”

“The other theme we’ve seen in our focus groups is the camaraderie, the sense of community, and that’s across time or branch,” added Taylor. “We’re trying to replicate that here.”

The roof of the building will be accessible from both the interior ramp and an exterior one. It will feature a remembrance gallery, a green roof and seating for up to 1,000 people. Events held there could range from ROTC graduations, to military weddings, to memorial services.

“We think this will be one of those iconic places in the community where people go both to celebrate and to memorialize,” said Taylor.

CDDC raised a total of $75 million to pay for the construction of the museum and grounds. Construction began on the site in December of 2015, following the demolition of the 60-year-old Franklin County Veterans Memorial.

A separate nonprofit organization is being formed now to operate the museum. The amount of money raised to support that organization will determine whether or not an entrance fee will be charged for the museum, according to Taylor.

For more information, visit www.nationalvmm.org.

All photos by Brent Warren.

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