Original ohio veterans museum national.jpg?1541009434?ixlib=rails 0.3

It highlights the voices of U.S. military veterans by focusing on personal stories instead of political perspectives.

There are approximately 21 million veterans in the United States today. While debates about national anthem participation and foreign intervention tactics often emerge in mainstream news cycles, the general public doesn’t frequently hear from actual U.S. veterans themselves.

Just two weeks before Veterans Day (and the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I), a new museum in Columbus, Ohio, has positioned itself at the center of this conversation. On October 27, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum (NVMM) became the country’s first-ever institution dedicated entirely to honoring U.S. military veterans. 

Situated on the banks of the Scioto River, the 53,000-square-foot museum features a sleek, circular design that culminates in a rooftop sanctuary and amphitheater. As visitors ascend the spiraling structure, they pass portraits, video narratives, written letters, and personal artifacts collected from veterans across every branch of the U.S. military and from every state. 

NVMM was designed by Allied Works Architecture, the same firm behind New York’s Museum of Arts and Design.
According to the museum’s organizers, the series of galleries brings viewers on a “narrative journey” that attempts to chronologically convey the experience of transitioning from a civilian to a member of the armed services and then back as a veteran readjusting to civilian life. “We wanted to tell the story of all veterans and the similarities in their stories—across different times and branches, whether they served in conflict or during peacetime,” says Amy Taylor, the chief operating officer of Columbus Downtown Development Corporation (CDDC), the nonprofit organization responsible for managing the project. 

Born from a passion project imagined by late U.S. Senator and World War II veteran John Glenn, NVMM aims to distinguish itself by focusing strictly on the personal and collective stories of U.S. military members who served in conflicts (as opposed to the history of the conflicts themselves).

For visitors on any end of the political spectrum, Ohio’s new museum offers an opportunity to better comprehend the experiences of a population whose individual perspectives are often overlooked. 

The National Veterans Memorial and Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. U.S. military veterans and Gold Star families (those whose loved ones have died while serving) can visit the museum for free.

>>Next: A Veteran’s Daughter Searches Vietnam for Clues to Her Father’s Past