Last week's column on the local Medal of Honor Museum drew an interesting assortment of responses, ranging from invitations to come and see where the local project is now to an opinion that "if any city should have a national museum it should be Pueblo, Colo. -- the only city to proudly claim four MOH recipients."
Another reader informed me that "there is an MOH museum in Charleston, S.C., on the USS Yorktown." It was opened in 2007, and they are obviously light years ahead of us. They have interactive exhibits, and their website claims the museum "has become the premium visitor attraction in the Charleston region." This backs up my stated conviction from the start of my interest in a local museum that it could be an important tourist attraction for us.
Still another reader informed me that the local project has the purpose of honoring the nine MOH recipients from this area. I had never heard that in years of trying to track the project. It may hint at a niche the local museum could fill. Maybe we could really feature Desmond Doss as a conscientious objector who received the medal, especially if he is the only conscientious objector to ever receive it.
Another hint at possible niches is the fact that the only woman to receive the medal was Mary Walker for the Battle of Bull Run on July 7, 1861. Surely a special exhibit on her would be interesting. So would a breakdown of recipients by race. Research shows 87 blacks have received the medal along with 41 Hispanics, 31 Asian-Americans and 22 American Indians.
In last week's column, if I had inserted just three words ("as originally conceived"), it would have made my concerns much clearer. I was an early supporter of building such a museum here "as originally conceived." And that early conception was just for an MOH museum with no military history component in a star-shaped building. Admittedly, the star shape
was not mandatory, but I was so pleased and excited about the presentation that I offered to ask the county commission to allow the museum to be built on one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in the county, the property at Silverdale. As I said last week, it is the last property with freeway visibility available along I-75.
Even if my column upset a few people, the basic fact remains that I was an early and enthusiastic supporter of the project "as originally conceived."
With 3,458 holders of the MOH, maybe no single museum can do full justice to them all with comprehensive exhibits, but Charleston has an artist to do a spread on a different recipient every month. Then each artistic feature is added to the museum's collection.
Jim Wade has been hired as the executive director of the local museum, and he seems to be a man with the ability and personality to steer this project to some kind of constructive future. His big challenge will probably be to determine the particular niche the local museum can fill. I am not certain what that will be, but I am certain that such a goal can be realized.
I feel better about the prospects for a significant local museum.
Email Dalton Roberts at DownhomeP@aol.com.