Museum Spotlight – The Army Today

Since 1775, the Army has stood ready to protect and defend the United States of America. “The Army Today” exhibit within the Uncertain Battlefield gallery will showcase the encounters and challenges the Army has experienced since the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.

After exploring the Bradley Fighting Vehicle which is sponsored by BAE Systems and will be displayed at a dramatic 20.5 degree angle in “The Persian Gulf War” exhibit, visitors will move seamlessly into “The Army Today” exhibit. In the back half of the gallery, the theme shifts into the action of today’s Soldiers. The “Latest Army Developments,” an exhibit area uniquely positioned underneath the Bradley, showcases how the Army continues to develop hardware and equipment to enhance its overall effectiveness on the battlefield.

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Conceptual renderings courtesy of Eisterhold Associates Inc.

On the rear wall of the gallery, visitors see a map-based display commemorating the events of September 11, 2001, beginning the “War on Terrorism” exhibit section. Personal artifacts and images document the infamous day when terrorists hijacked passenger airplanes and attacked the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon, and a fourth hijacked jet crashed into rural Pennsylvania.

Moving to the right of the September 11 display, visitors see three suspended Humvee doors, documenting the innovative up-armoring of vehicles when vulnerabilities to improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were revealed following the 2003 invasion of Iraq (see related story on page 4). Next to the Humvee doors, the exhibit space is lined with Conex shipping containers and HESCO barriers, illustrating the defensive barriers needed and used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The next two exhibit areas, “Afghanistan” and “Iraq,” use collaged imagery, text, and artifacts to illustrate the Army’s involvement in both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Each of these exhibit sections intentionally avoids the politics of the events in Iraq and Afghanistan and focuses on the Soldier’s experience.

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U.S. Army Photo.

In the center of the “The Army Today” exhibit is a motion-activated video program titled, “Soldiers’ Point of View.” Positioned within a scenic alcove, this projected media piece is 100 percent Soldier-created, and includes videos, photos, artwork, and music, with the gripping immediacy of the first-person point of view. A sculpted wall provides the media backdrop and is created to suggest a location anywhere in the world: New York, Baghdad, the mountains of Afghanistan, etc. The “Soldiers’ Point of View” emphasizes that this war has no geographical center, providing the conceptual context that makes this uncertain battlefield the backdrop for everything Soldiers have to say.

Hanging above all of the displays within “The Army Today” exhibit area is a massive map of the Middle East and surrounding areas. The map is rendered in simple contour-cut line work on plywood, slightly distressed, emphasizing the global nature of today’s conflicts and underscoring the uncertainty of where the Army will be next.

The Museum also has plans to accommodate a changing exhibit story line so that the displays throughout this area can be easily updated to correspond with the current events for some time to come.