The WSMR Museum will soon be receiving a facelift and telling the WSMR story from a different perspective, the perspective of the Army Soldier.
Since the museum was transferred from Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation to the Directorate, Plans Training, Mobilization and Security in January 2014, DPTMS Director Gerry Veara wanted to ensure that visitors gained valuable knowledge when touring the museum.
“I felt that it wasn’t all that it could be,” Veara said. “The back end of the museum was the best that could be done, but it didn’t create a learning experience. I didn’t get the sense of having learned the WSMR experience.”
After discussing his next move forward with Deputy Garrison Commander Kate McNeely, Veara decided to visit the Army Center for Military History in Washington D.C., to learn how different Army museums are set up. Both Veara and WSMR Museum Director Darren Court visited CMH in late January 2014. During their visit they were able to tour several surrounding Army museums; both said they gained a lot of knowledge on how to move forward.
“It wasn’t something that we really understood. We just rolled with it as we went along,” Veara said.
From their visits the pair realized that they needed to align themselves with Army museums around the world. They decided to follow suite with the other 49 Army museums and tell the Army story through significant events that occurred at WSMR and surrounding areas.
“Although the WSMR Museum has been a part of the Army, we have not followed their structure. This is the year where we’re building the foundation for that,” Veara said.
The first step in aligning with the Army required a new storyline for the museum on what visitors will learn and how they will learn it.
“The WSMR Museum has got to tell a story. The complete education system is built around the storyline. It will become our baseline for everything we do for the museum,” Veara said.
Court has been working on a new storyline for the WSMR Museum that he will present to the WSMR Historical Foundation, a private organization that provides support for the museum, once he completes it in March. Outlines of the storyline have already been presented to the foundation members. The storyline is a chronological timeline all the way up to current day WSMR.
“There’s an important story to tell here as far as the Army and the Soldiers of White Sands,” Court said.
Veara said it is important to incorporate the ideas of the foundation members into the museum’s new layout, especially the storyline, because there is a lot of knowledge within the members. The foundation is made up of current and retired WSMR employees.
“It would be a pity not to use the resource,” Veara said.
Court said WSMR’s uniqueness has helped him in developing a rich storyline. According to Court, the WSMR Museum has been named the primary repository for all missile and rocket technology by CMH. Since the museum serves as a repository, Court said he has had no trouble obtaining historical information he has been searching for his storyline.
Court said the current storyline begins with the opening of the Santa Fe Trail, when Soldiers first began arriving to the area. The story line then moves forward to war history and early rocketry. Each exhibit in the storyline will include three panels of photographs and texts, and one case with six artifacts. The goal for each exhibit is for it to have four learning points.
“We definitely don’t want to lose the Navy and NASA history but we have to make it work within this larger scope,” Court said. “What we’ll end up with is the idea of Soldiers testing technology.”
Court said he also hopes to feature the testing that went on at the Green River, Utah Launch Complex and Fort Wingate, which many people don’t associate with WSMR.
Veara said he is also working with the foundation members to move forward with expansion plans with the current money that has already been fundraised. The foundation has been a major advocate for the museum and has been fundraising to help develop a major renovation project since before the storyline efforts. The members have been raising funds for a grand expansion of the museum since the early 2000s. Veara said the contribution to the museum will be greatly beneficial in getting the museum to look the way they envisioned.
“We’re looking at the alternatives to that kind of construction. If we can’t get there then we’ll work with what we’ve got and start here,” Veara said. “It’s going to take adjustments on everybody’s part. It’s a completely different look.”
Veara said the funds to redevelop the interior of the museum will come from CMH. The museum has already been approved to recruit a museum specialist. Veara said they hadn’t planned on seeing a payoff for their efforts until the following year but they are already seeing approvals for some funding requests. There were eight items that were already submitted that were approved as critical to the Army.
“No one else in the Army has what we have. This is a unique niche in Army history,” Veara said. “When they leave here they’re going to learn what the strategic Army has done here,” Veara added.
The project is scheduled to be completed at the end of next year.