New site considered for Arsenal Museum


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Originally Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2013, 6:54 pm
Last Updated: Feb. 20, 2013, 9:43 pm
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By Dawn Neuses, dneuses@qconline.com


A discussion is under way to see if there areways to improve the Rock Island Arsenal Museum so more people can see the island's national significance in military defense.

Joe Taylor, president and CEO of the Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau, said expanding the museum is an idea sparked out of conversations the past two years with community leaders and historic preservationists who would like to see the Arsenal's history told in a larger way.

Like most museums, only 3 to 5 percent of the Arsenal's artifacts can be displayed at one time."The question becomes how can we enlarge the museum, make it better so it tells our story. The Arsenal is a national treasure," Mr. Taylor said.

"I not only see it as a tourist treasure but a way to engage a national audience in our role in national defense," he said.

Last spring, Mr. Taylor toured theAirborne and Special Operations Museum near Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, N.C. The museum opened to the public on Aug. 16, 2000, 18 years after the idea was brought to Maj. Gen. James J. Lindsay, Commanding General, 82nd Airborne Division by the Military Affairs Committee of the Fayetteville Area Chamber of Commerce.

The Department of Defense and community of Fayetteville worked together to raise money and build the museum close to, but outside, the base. It draws more than 200,000 visitors annually, Mr. Taylor said.

The Arsenal Museum gets about 25,000 visitors per year. It's located in the middle of the island, and to get to it, or just onto the island, visitors have to pass through security.

Mr. Taylor said there are a number of things that could be overcome to expand the Arsenal Museum and ensure more people see its artifacts and the island's national impact.

"Certainly, the Quad-Cities and the Rock Island Arsenal deserve as much attention as Fort Bragg does," he said. "I think we need to engage in discussion with our congressional delegation, community leaders and those on the Arsenal."

The Arsenal Museum is operated by the military, and the artifacts are owned by the U.S. Army Center for Military History. Mr. Taylor said the military would have a great deal of input as to what could legally, or feasibly, happen.

U.S. Army Garrison Public Affairs Officer Eric Cramersaid the Arsenal has no comment.

The board of the Rock Island Arsenal Historical Society, a volunteer group that supports the Arsenal Museum, has not been presented with any figures or statistics that would make it want to move off the island, society President Jim Jochum said.

The current location has benefits, he said. Museum visitors can walk out of the building and see the National Cemetery they learned about inside or visit the site of the former prisoners of war camp. If the museum was off-site, visitors would have to leave the museum and drive to the Arsenal if they want to see such things, Mr. Jochum said.

Mr. Taylor said there are no set plans right now, and it's unknown if expanding and/or moving the museum would be possible or allowed by the military. "I do think we need to ask the question, what can we do?"


















 



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