In 1962 the USS Arizona Memorial was established in memory of those who died in the Pearl Harbor attack. However, as time went by it was realized that the addition of a museum and a visitor center could help enhance a visitor’s experience at the memorial. This realization led to the opening of a visitor center and museum in 1980 that could accommodate approximately 750,000 visitors a year.
Both the visitor center and the USS Arizona Memorial are located on the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor. Unfortunately, the foundation where the visitor center was built is sinking, so the construction of a new Pearl Harbor Museum and Visitor Center has become necessary. The other factors that have led to the need to expand and replace the existing center are the large number of visitors (1.5 million annually), the lack of space for the museum’s artifacts, and the current facility’s insufficient educational and cultural space.
Groundbreaking for the $52 million project is scheduled for the end of 2008, and completion of the project is scheduled for December 7, 2010. Phasing of the construction will allow the site to remain open during construction.
On August 29, representatives from the National Park Service gave a presentation on the project at the Main Library in Santa Monica so that veterans and history enthusiasts could have a chance to give input to the National Park Service on the project’s vision. Presentations were given in other Southern California locations over the Labor Day weekend.
A key question posed at the Santa Monica presentation was whether it was a good idea to have visitors be able to touch a piece of metal that was part of the USS Arizona. Currently, a piece of the ship is rusting due to exposure to the elements, so incorporating a part of it into the museum for people to touch was suggested. Feelings about the suggestion were mixed. Some thought it was a great idea for future generations to be able to touch a piece of history, while others were concerned that over time the oil from the visitors’ hands would cause the metal to deteriorate.
The National Park Service also wanted to know if the museum’s exhibits should incorporate the more gory pictures from the Pearl Harbor attack, such as images of burned bodies or bloodied stretchers. The consensus at the meeting was that the pictures should be included but grouped together with appropriate warnings so people who wanted to avoid such images would be able to due so.
This new museum will give a more thorough presentation of the history of the Pearl Harbor attack because it will now include “military and civilian perspectives and historical events leading up to the attack, greater detail of the attack itself,” and exhibits on the aftermath of the attack and World War II in the Pacific.
Funding for the expansion and replacement project is being provided by the Federal government, private corporations, Pearl Harbor survivors, pennies from kids, funds from the State of Hawaii, and other sources.
More information about the memorial and new visitor center can be found at pearlharbormemorial.com