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AFGSC upgrades museums, heritage sites

  • Published
  • By Joe Thomas
  • Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs
BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- Museums and heritage centers within Air Force Global Strike Command are currently undergoing changes to connect a new generation of Airmen with the Global Strike mission, according to Dan Phoenix, Command Curator & Senior Historian, AFGSC Office of History and Museums.

The changes range from minor signage improvements to complete construction overhauls that are meant to bring the sites into the 21st century.

“We want these museums to connect to the audience, especially Airmen” Phoenix said. “This isn’t just about sharing raw information, but about going more in-depth into what that information actually means.”

These improvements center around an overall philosophy: museums and heritage sites should serve their respective commands and the Global Strike mission.

“Our first priority will be Airmen and their families,” Phoenix said. “It is now mandatory in many of the Airman Leadership School and First Term Airman classes to have a museum visit. Airmen are our primary audience.”

This means bringing old infrastructure — facilities, placards, displays — into the 21st century. Different wings, with AFGSC support, are focused on upgrading exhibits and infrastructure to make the subject material more accessible to today’s patrons.

Patrons of the museums and heritage sites may be familiar with monochromatic placards, faded with age. Not only are museums implementing full-color imagery, they are also changing the way the information is organized. The idea is to place more emphasis on the actual meaning behind the information rather than just on the information itself.

“We’ve broken the information down in a lot of different ways,” Phoenix said. “Before, we would lay out basic information and statistics about an aircraft, weapon system or piece of equipment without really comparing it to something else or without providing a whole lot of context. Much of the information shows why the exhibit or topic is important and how it relates to the bigger picture.”

“At first the docents were a little apprehensive,” Master Sgt. Mark Wight, Ellsworth Museum, said. “But the newer signs do a much better job in conveying a story without stealing the docent’s thunder. It’s gone a long way in helping us tell Ellsworth’s story and convey the wing’s heritage to our younger Airmen who come here by way of FTAC and other courses.”

Although minor improvements are going a long way in telling a unit’s story, major improvements are coming down the pipeline to restructure some Global Strike museums from the ground up to help with the story telling process. The first on this list is the Global Power Museum at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, which belongs to the 2nd Bomb Wing.

“We’re going to completely redo the inside,” Amy Russell, director Global Power Museum, said. “The first exhibit that people will see will be the War on Terror, and it will move back in time from our most recent history. The idea is to engage the audience with the most current stories first. Of course, we have to do this little by little as we go. It will be a work in progress.”

Many museums and sites have also become more environmentally friendly, as much of the landscaping now requires less water to maintain.

“This is called xeriscaping,” Wight said. “This is just one of the ways that the museum at Ellsworth is reducing its footprint. We’re also redoing much of the Air Park and will soon be repainting five of our aircraft. This will also go a long way in making the museum grounds more aesthetically pleasing.”

Although initial improvement projects have been focused at Barksdale and Ellsworth, other AFGSC museums and heritage centers are in line for future upgrades and improvements. "It's the 21st century," Phoenix said. "AFGSC can't have 19th century museums."