Inside the Collection of the National Museum of the United States Army

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By T. Logan Metesh

It wasn’t until fairly recently that I became aware of the fact that the U.S. Army is the only branch of our military not to have a national museum. This will all change when the National Museum of the Army opens on 80 acres at Fort Belvoir in a building projected to be 185,000 square feet. The official groundbreaking takes place today, and the museum is slated to open in 2018.

The galleries will display choice selections from the more than 15,000 pieces of art and 30,000 other objects in the collection. Until the opening in 2018, the collection sits at its temporary home at the Museum Support Center.

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I’ve been to a lot of museums and I’ve seen many of their collection storage areas. Some can barely be called storage areas – such as the one that had objects stuffed into a small half-bath that was no longer in use. Others are truly state-of-the-art and do a wonderful job of safely and securely housing the countless priceless artifacts in the collection.

The Army’s Museum Support Center at Fort Belvoir in Virginia certainly falls in the latter of the two categories.

I recently had the opportunity to take a tour of the facility and couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed at the magnitude of history in the building.

The warehouse is nondescript enough from the outside, but the inside is straight out of the Indiana Jones scene when they store the Ark of the Covenant. (I can’t take credit for that analogy, but I can’t think of a better way to describe it.) Hidden inside a cavernous warehouse is a series of smaller rooms that lend themselves to every specialty you can think of from photography and conservation to long-term storage.

pistols

The bland white and gray colors on the walls and floors give way to a very colorful narrative of the Army from its inception to present day. They’ve got so much artwork that it hangs on floor-to-ceiling collapsible storage racks that can be rolled out to access the pieces you need. In addition to original paintings of notable historic figures, they’ve also got three original Norman Rockwell paintings from World War II.

rockwell

General U. S. Grant’s kepi from the Civil War? Check.

Powder horns from the American Revolution? Check.

M1913 Cavalry Saber (designed by Patton), serial number 1? Check.

patton

More firepower (handheld and otherwise) than you can shake a stick at? Check.

rifles

General John Pershing’s 1918 staff car? Check.

pershing-car

I think you get the idea. The collection is massive and the curators will have no difficulty in filling up the galleries with priceless objects.

When I left after my visit, I’ve never been more proud of the U.S. Army and excited to see them finally get their own museum. If you want to learn more about the museum’s mission, its collection, or even how you can help them reach their goal by 2018, visit www.thenmusa.org.

comments

  1. avatar PeterK says:

    Very awesome. Even these few photos leaves you a little dumbstruck at the sheer history involved in the US Army.

  2. avatar Ralph says:

    I hope the museum has a picture of my dad, who won WW2 by his damn self.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      Is this where we do the “yo daddy” jokes?

      1. avatar The Gray Wall Brick says:

        Nope, Cali-Zim jokes.

  3. avatar billy.hill says:

    Almost every major Army base I’ve ever been to has some sort of museum or visitor center with cool stuff and displays. Being a self confessed Army nerd I always went and checked them out. I’ll definitely have to check this one out when it opens.

  4. avatar Mr. Woodcock says:

    The National Infantry Museum in Columbus, GA is the top free military museum in the country. Those that are military history buffs should definitely check it out. I was expecting mediocre but it was amazing. They even have a couple of combat demos where you get to shoot some trainer guns at either targets or out of a vehicle at enemies. Well worth the visit and small donation to get in and see all the exhibits.

    1. avatar billy.hill says:

      The old one on main post felt like an antique store almost it was so crowded and dark. The newer one they built i think in 07 or 08? was simply awesome.

  5. avatar Nedd Ludd says:


    I always thought the museum at West Point Military Academy was the Army museum. Apparently not.
    Anyway the museum at West Point is well worth a visit.

    “The mission of the West Point Museum is to collect, preserve, exhibit and interpret historically significant artifacts and stimulate interest in the United States Military Academy at West Point, the United States Army and the Profession of Arms. The West Point Museum also supplements academic, cultural and military instruction and provides educational programs and services for Cadets, the military and civilian personnel.

    Our museum offers a taste of the over 60,000 Army historical artifacts that inspire and educate the U.S. Corps of Cadets on a daily basis. The holdings of the West Point Museum are displayed not only within the Museum’s walls at Pershing Center, but throughout the United States Military Academy at West Point’s buildings and grounds.”
    http://www.westpoint.army.mil/museum.html

    From Trip Advisor:
    “Military History as it should be displayed”
    5 of 5 stars Reviewed 4 weeks ago

    “I’ve been visiting the West Point Museum since I was a kid. Their collection of artifacts from all US wars, and even ancient and European ones, is beyond belief. Even if you have no interest in anything military this place invites you to see how our military, especially USMA cadets, have shaped our world. Allow about 2-3 hours to really see all the exhibits.”
    https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g48855-d267744-Reviews-West_Point_Museum-West_Point_New_York.html

  6. avatar neiowa says:

    Belvoir? Must be the Museum of the REMF.

    Rock Island Arsenal has a rather nice small arms museum.

  7. avatar Darkwing says:

    Another big waste of tax payers money

    1. avatar Yellow Devil says:

      I bet you are the belle of the ball at parties.

  8. avatar Steve Kreitler says:

    For those of you who just like museums, if you are in Denver, I highly recommend the Forney transportation museum. It’s $9 to get in (last time I checked), but well worth it.
    This makes two must-see museums in Virginia for me- the other one being Colonial Williamsburg. Now, to talk the wife into it.

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