The National Museum of the Marine Corps, Triangle, VA.
One doesn’t think of the ramrod-straight, tough-as-nails Marines as being artistic, but
they’d be dead wrong. Just visit the newly reopened National Museum of the Marine Corps for proof of that. As you walk into the soaring atrium you’re surrounded by a swirl of helicopters, Harriers, Dauntlesses, and Corsairs zooming down to help their buddies on the ground – and inside the exhibit area it only gets better. A doorway turns into a portal and you discover that you’re inside the belly of a Marine helicopter that’s just landed in a hot LZ. As you come out the other end you unhappily find yourself in the middle of firefight complete with the sights, sounds, flashes, and smells of combat (yes, the smells are here too). If those experiences don’t tell you this is not your grandmother’s museum than how about hoisting a 40-pound rucksack on your shoulders and having a drill sergeant in your face? Enter a soundproof booth for that experience.
To fully experience this museum start in the Leatherneck Gallery and try not to be overwhelmed. The curators use lighting, foliage, landscaping and body casting (from real marines) to stage these battlescapes and they do it so well you’ll be effortlessly transported back in time.
This architectural masterpiece of a museum has an impressive 120,000 square feet of interactive exhibits and dioramas that showcase the weapons, artillery, aircraft, and landing craft of the Marines with histories and stories associated with each. They cover conflicts back as far as the first days of the Marines, through Korea, Vietnam and the current war on terror. Ultimately, being a Marine is the theme here — accepting duty over all else, making sacrifices for one’s brothers, for one’s Company, for the Corps, for the nation. You’ll learn about Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands and other battles but you’ll feel something more here, too – pride, and honor among them
Crowds do form during the middle of the day so its best to come early and have lunch in the Tun Tavern. Built to resemble the iconic 1775 Philadelphia tavern, the Tun serves up a hearty meal all day. (There’s also the more convenient Devil Dog Diner for a quick meal.)
So, yes; the Marines do use imagination and creativity to make their history come to life – just look down at your feet and see the “sands” of some distant Pacific Island or the “mud” of a patch of ground in Southeast Asia. And what about that strikingly familiar silhouette of this ultra-modern museum? What does that remind you of? As the brochure puts it, “the Museum’s soaring design evokes the image of the flag-raisers of Iwo Jima.” Creative? Artistic? The Marines? Enough said.
Hours: Daily: 9am – 5pm
Visit museum website