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Triangle, VAThe National Museum of the Marine Corps (NMMC) already tells more than 200 years of the Corps’ rich history, but it’s still a work in progress. The Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, in cooperation with the Marine Corps, recently broke ground on the 126,000 square feet that will complete the Museum. The new spaces will include two historical galleries that tell the Marine Corps story from the mid-1970s to the present, a giant-screen theater, an art gallery and studio, classrooms, a children’s gallery, Marine Corps sports gallery, and a Hall of Valor, as well as a changing exhibits area.

The entire build-out will take 5 years, with the new spaces opening in phases. The classrooms, children’s gallery, art gallery, Hall of Valor, and theater open in 2017, followed by the historical galleries in 2018. A sports gallery and hall of fame will open in 2019. And finally, the changing gallery opens in 2020, along with a new gallery in the original section of the Museum that explores the years between WWI and WWII. NMMC will be open throughout construction except for a few months in early 2016 while new aircraft are installed in Leatherneck Gallery.

These galleries will occupy a space that’s roughly the same size as the existing WWI and WWII galleries. Put another way, there will be 40 years of modern history in the same amount of space that tells 6 years of history. Additionally, the size of the equipment used to tell the story is much larger than the older tanks and aircraft. These factors will challenge the design team to find new ways to tell a complex story.

“We aren’t letting limited space limit our vision for these new galleries. We’re using lighting, video overlays and sound to bring the spaces to life,” NMMC Exhibits Chief Charles Girbovan said. “Visitors will watch the activity at a FARP (Forward Arming and Refueling Point), where the helicopters rotors are still turning and the Marines, though static cast figures, are quickly preparing the bird for its next mission.”

The Museum’s own exhibits team is being supplemented by talent from Eisterhold Associates from Kansas City. “We will also let contracts for exhibit fabrication, media, and some realistic cast figures that will help the history come to life,” Girbovan said. “We have learned so many lessons from our original galleries, and media technology has improved by orders of magnitude since opening in 2006. We should be able to take advantage of so many new tools in these galleries to greatly enhance the visitor experience.”

According to Museum Director Lin Ezell, NMMC underestimated the number of young visitors who would come to the Museum either with their families or as part of an organized day care program or summer camp. “Our original exhibits were largely designed for older students and adults,” she said. “Since opening, we’ve added some areas especially geared for children under the age of 8. But that wasn’t enough.” The new construction will include a gallery especially for children, allowing them to explore the world in which Marines have served through the years, with plenty of hands-on opportunities, uniforms to try on, and books to read.

About NMMC

The Museum is a public-private partnership between the U.S. Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation. Building construction is being funded through the Foundation, while the exhibitions are being provided through the Marine Corps’ budget. The Museum is located at 18900 Jefferson Davis Highway in Triangle, VA. and is open 9:00 am to 5:00 pm daily except Christmas Day. Admission and parking are free. For more information, call 703-784-6107 or visit on the web at www.usmcmuseum.com.