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Upcoming Smithsonian Exhibition Honors Service Members

By John Valceanu
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31, 2004 – The Smithsonian Institution will launch a major permanent exhibition honoring American armed forces on Veterans Day.

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A visitor to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., stops to look at a presentation announcing a new permanent exhibition called "The Price of Freedom: Americans at War," which will be launched on Veterans Day. The exhibition will honor members of the armed forces who fought in the nation's wars. Photo by John Valceanu.
  

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"The Price of Freedom: Americans at War" will occupy about 18,000 square feet in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History here. The exhibition will cover 250 years of American history, beginning with the French and Indian War of 1756 and running through the current war on terrorism.

"The overall theme of the exhibit is that wars have been defining episodes in American history," said David Allison, project director for the exhibition. "But wars have multiple dimensions -- political, economic and social -- and this exhibition explores how Americans everywhere were impacted by wars."

The exhibition will focus on the servicemembers who fought the nation's wars, but it also will examine the sacrifices made by American individuals, families and communities during wartime, Allison said. It contains more than 800 artifacts, including weapons, uniforms, equipment, flags and medals. Hundreds of images, diary entries, video and audio pieces will help tell the story of what servicemembers and other Americans experienced during war.

"It's not our words, but the words of those who lived these experiences that tell the story. It's their words that carry the message," Allison said. "The personal stories are really a very important part of this exhibition."

Most of the stories in the exhibition will focus on the servicemembers who fought in the campaigns, rather than on senior military or civilian leaders.

"This exhibit is less about military strategy and grand campaign plans, and it is more about the soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen," Allison said. "We are telling their story in their words, using voice narratives."

To make this exhibit a reality, the Smithsonian is coordinating with officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs, various branches of the military, and the Defense Department.

Melinda Machado, the American history museum's director of public affairs, said the project has brought the military and the Smithsonian closer together.

"In recent years we have collaborated with both the Army and the Navy on major exhibitions, including one on submarines and one on the U.S. Military Academy at West Point," Machado said. "Now we're working with the Department of Defense on this project. I enjoy working with the military. Everyone has been very enthusiastic and helpful on this project."

Collaboration has been especially important for this project because of its size and the huge amount of material it covers, Machado said.

"I think this may be the first time any American museum has presented this breadth of military history, also going into considerable depth on specific subjects," Machado said.

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Related Sites:
The Smithsonian Institution
National Museum of American History

Click photo for screen-resolution imageA visitor to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., stops to look at a presentation announcing a new permanent exhibition called "The Price of Freedom: Americans at War," which will be launched on Veterans Day. The exhibition will honor members of the armed forces who fought in the nation's wars. Photo by John Valceanu.  
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