A new museum and memorial in Columbus, Ohio, honors US Veterans

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The nation’s newest museum, which opened in Columbus, Ohio, on October 27, is the happy result of a collaboration between public and private interests: it is the twentieth national museum designated by Congress and the first institution dedicated to United States veterans, who currently number approximately 21 million. As originally envisioned by the late Marine pilot, astronaut, and senator John Glenn, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum (NVMM) is neither war memorial nor military museum, but is intended to honor veterans of all conflicts, highlighting the role of individual service and sacrifice and placing national events in the context of world history.


Designed by Allied Works Architecture on a seven-acre site on the banks of the Scioto River, the 53,000-square-foot building will house permanent and temporary exhibitions as well as providing space for public events and facilities for veterans’ groups and community activities. Architect Brad Cloepfil, founder and principal of Allied Works, refers to the project as “a place of ceremony, celebration, and reflection.” Certain to become a Columbus landmark, the dramatic structure is formed of  three interwoven bands of concrete arches, cast in place, enclosing the double-height exhibition galleries and multipurpose rooms. A processional ramp slopes upward, leading to a rooftop sanctuary and amphitheater, a green space designed for quiet contemplation or ceremonial events that looks out to the water and city skyline. Inside, the high-ceilinged Great Hall is intended both as a gathering place and for orientation to the light-filled galleries along the perimeter of the building. Glass walls throughout enable views to the surrounding Memorial Grove, designed by landscape architects OLIN, with its elm trees, reflecting pool, and memorial stone wall.


The NVMM, supported by Ohio’s veterans and project-managed by the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation, is expected to be a catalyst for the revitalization of the city’s downtown waterfront as well as an attraction in itself.  Rather than static displays, the exhibitions, designed by Ralph Applebaum Associates, highlight personal stories in dynamic installations, making use of photographs, letters, and personal effects as well as multimedia presentations and interactive devices to replicate the experience of transitioning from civilian to combatant to veteran reentering civilian life in key moments in history.

Lieutenant General Michael Ferriter, US Army (retired), who serves as president and CEO of the NVMM, has called the institution “a crucial touchpoint for the nation,” and notes its objectives “to inspire reflection and remembrance, catalyze nostalgia into action, and amplify civic participation.”