A rendering shows the exterior of the National Army Museum. (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, LLP via Army Historica)
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Soldiers now have a sneak peek inside the national museum that's being designed for them.
Images of spaces inside the National Museum of the U.S. Army have been released, showing vast areas for an immersion theater, a wall of honor and more. The renderings, released by the Army Historical Foundation, are a first look inside the museum.
Fundraising and design efforts are moving the museum toward a 2015 opening at Fort Belvoir, Va.
The national museum will cover the Army's history from the colonial militias to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and beyond. This will distinguish the facility from the Army's 43 other museums, which focus on specific branches, eras, units or installations.
Once open, the museum will be operated by the Army, but until then, fundraising for two-thirds of the $300 million project is overseen by the Army Historical Foundation in Arlington, Va.
Officials expect the museum will become a major tourist attraction in the Washington area, drawing 750,000 to 1 million visitors annually.
The Army has donated 55 acres for the project while providing funds for site preparation and design activities.
As of early March, the foundation had raised $64 million of the $155 million needed to complete phase I of the project and open the museum in 2015, said retired Col. David Fabian, communications director for the foundation.
While the bulk of the funds raised so far have come from companies in the defense industry, $3 million was raised last year through the sale of commemorative coins that were struck by the U.S. Mint with images depicting themes from the Army's 236-year history.
A site dedication ceremony for the museum is tentatively scheduled for this fall, with a groundbreaking in mid-2013, according to Fabian.
Construction of a support center that provides laboratories and work and storage areas for Army curators, historians and researchers has been completed. It houses artwork and thousands of artifacts previously stored at Anniston Army Depot, Ala.
Larger artifacts, such as tanks, aircraft and vehicles, are still at Anniston, and will not be moved to Belvoir until storage and display facilities become available.
Design renderings of an outside view of the national museum show an imposing four-story tower as a dominant feature of a complex that will include a parade ground, amphitheater and memorial garden, as well as exhibits employing interactive and state-of-the-art technologies.
• Army Theater: A theater in the round, this facility will provide a 360-degree projection display to immerse visitors in a visual and audio experience as they travel alongside soldiers from basic training to operational missions.
• Education Pavilion: This facility will reflect the Army's interest in advancing geography, science, technology and mathematics education programs. Classrooms will feature interactive learning tools, such as motion-sensitive smart tables and desk-mounted computers.
• Medal of Honor Garden: This outdoor rooftop space will identify and honor the more than 2,400 soldiers who, to date, have been awarded the Medal of Honor.
• Veterans' Hall: This multifunctional facility will provide a place for reunions, meetings, presentations, lectures and other official events. The hall will house several interactive features, such as the Registry of the American Soldier, artifacts and special exhibits.
• Wall of Honor (Colors of Courage): This space will be showcased in the museum lobby to symbolize and chronicle the history of the 11 major wars the Army has fought to date. It will feature replicas of 185 campaign streamers affixed to the Army flag.