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Barksdale Global Power Museum gets facelift, brings past to life

  • Published
  • By Carla Pampe
  • Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs
Visitors to the Barksdale Global Power Museum who haven't been in a while will notice some changes on their visit, as the museum recently completed a nearly three-year renovation project. 

Over the years, the museum at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, has seen a number of changes, one of the biggest being a new name. The museum, formerly called the Eighth Air Force Museum, was often confused with the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Savannah, Georgia, and with the standup of Air Force Global Strike Command, leadership decided it was time for a change. The museum officially became the Barksdale Global Power Museum in October 2012.

"That was something that had been talked about for years," Amy Russell,
museum curator, said. "It was the right time to do it. I was coming in as the new director, the museum was about to start changing, big changes, big updates, so we decided 'if we're going to do this, let's roll with this and do it now.'"

The change in name was just the first of many changes to come, Russell said. When the museum held a memorial for Operation Linebacker II in December 2012, one gallery was updated for the event and filled with B-52 artwork.

"Once we updated that one room, we all kind of looked at each other - we had a couple of reservists who were on orders at that time, myself, and my crew chief who is always here - and we decided if we were going to update this place, we were going to do it then," Russell said. "We all came back from Christmas vacation and brought the sledgehammers. We started cleaning out gallery by gallery, and tearing it down and rebuilding it. So, the dental hygienist, the cop, the crew chief and the historian were hanging drywall and trying to get this all rolling."

Russell said while the museum needed a fresh, new look, it also needed to be brought up to current museum standards, with new lighting, new cabinetry, etc. 

"Since then, it's been almost a three-year process, because it takes time, and it takes money to go in and redo every room," she said. "We ripped every room down to the studs and we rebuilt it all the way up."

Now that the major renovations are completed, Russell is focused on filling the galleries with new exhibits.

"With the change of the name, we have an opportunity to not just show the bomber story, but the story of the missileer as well, and I think that's one of the things we want to be able to do here is tell the Global Strike Command story," she said.

"So when you come in today, you're going to see things you didn't see five years ago when you walked in the museum," Russell added. "And then, when you come back in another couple months, you'll see something different, and in another year after that you'll see something different as well."

Russell said large displays will rotate every two-to-three years, and smaller displays will rotate in and out every six-nine months.

However, there will still be some familiar displays.

"A lot of the items are things you've seen before. I'm not going to not have the 9-11 Bush podium - it's a huge draw for us, and a huge part of the Barksdale story - just like I'm not going to take down the Barksdale room that tells the story of Lt. Barksdale," she said. "These are staples of who we are, so you're still going to be able to come in and see a lot of the special things you've seen in the past. But, we're able to pull out a lot of new stuff as well."

In addition to the many changes inside the museum, the staff has also done a lot of work outside in the air park.

"We got money to paint six aircraft this year. All of them except for one went back exactly how they were, because the paint schemes are already set," Russell said. "We painted the B-52D, which has a Vietnam combat history, we painted our MiG-21, our B-47, our P-51, B-17, and the last one is the B-24, and that is the exciting one."

The museum's B-24 is one of the last of the Willow Run built B-24s left in the world. Ford Motor Company's Willow Run manufacturing complex in Willow Run, Michigan, produced more B-24s during World War II than anyone else, making it special in and of itself, Russell said.

"We've painted it in that desert sand, paint scheme to represent the Mediterranean Theater of Operations," she said. "So, for the life of that paint, which will be 5-7 years, we'll be able to tell the story of the MTO, look at the different planes that were delivered there, the missions they were flying, and talk about these.

"Our B-24 is a J model, and there was one J-model delivered to the MTO, and that was 'Rupert the Roo II,' and so that's what we're painting our B-24 to represent," she said. "It's exciting, because it's something different."
Staff Sgt. Garrett Hulett, Barksdale Global Power Museum Maintenance NCOIC, maintains a total of 20 static displays, 17 of which are aircraft. He said working on the aircraft is like stepping back in time.

"It is like I am opening a history book every time I crawl through one," he said. "You can't help but wonder what it would have been like to be a part of a crew on board during WWII. The ability to work on a piece of history that my fellow airmen worked on in 1943 - there is no better history book to crawl through than one of these warbirds."
He also feels the planes in the air park have an important purpose.

"Fleets that are still in active service like the B-52 have a purpose, those B-52's are still a deterrence to our enemies. The museum aircraft have all served the very same purpose as our active fleets," he said. "For me to have the opportunity to be a part of preserving these aircraft for future generations - there is no greater feeling. It is all about investing in the investing in the past."

Hulett said he could go on and on about the significance of the air park, but wants visitors to see it for themselves.

"This is definitely a place that you don't want to miss the opportunity to check out," he said. "The amount of work that has been put into this place is astonishing, we still have a lot of work to do but we are making a significant impact and working toward better preserving our history."

With all the updates and changes, Russell hopes to draw in new visitors, as well as provide something new for those who have visited before.

"This is not the same museum that it used to be. A lot of people forget that we're not just an air park, we're an air park and a museum," she said. "The air park is such a gem for this community to have, but so is this museum, and so are the displays inside, and there are a lot of wonderful things you can see here."

When visitors come to the Barksdale Global Power Museum, there are a couple of things Russell wants people to take with them when they leave.

"I want the younger generation to walk away with an appreciation and a better understanding of the military," she said. "I want them to understand that it's important to say 'thank you' to the people in uniform.

"I also want the local community to understand that we are partners in this. We work side-by-side with each other. I think it's important that I'm a civilian. I don't wear the uniform. I'm one of you, and we are just alike," she added. "It's important for them to understand that, because the base is so tied into the community, and the community is tied into the base. We support each other. This isn't just the Air Force's history, this is your history as an American."