The facility-to be called the National Museum of the Marine Corps-is under construction on a 135-acre site just off Interstate 95 and adjacent to the service's base in Quantico, Va.
When it opens in 2006, the $41 million museum will have close to 60,000 square feet of exhibits designed to immerse guests in the day-to-day life and history of the Marines, explained Bill Ruggieri, the project's senior exhibit designer at Christopher Chadbourne and Associates, of Boston, Mass.
As they enter the museum, visitors will pass through an orientation theater, featuring an introductory film about the history of the Corps. Then, they will move to a replica of a recruiting station and board a bus. In the bus windows, television screens transmit Marines' stories of their trips to boot camp.
When they leave the bus, visitors will hear drill instructors shouting orders from overhead, surrounding speakers. Other aspects of recruit training will be recreated accurately, including a graduation march to the Marines' Hymn, Ruggieri said.
From boot camp, attendees will enter the central corridor of the museum, called the Fast Track, Ruggieri explained. Designed for visitors with limited time, the Fast Track presents a capsule history of the service, from its birth in 1775 to the present.
Visitors can explore Marines' roles in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. In the World War II gallery, for example, visitors will witness landing on Iwo Jima from the perspective of the Marines. In the Korean War section, attendees will march with a rifle company as it fights its way from the Chosin Reservoir to the sea.
The Vietnam War gallery will depict the 1968 siege of Khe Sanh. Guests will enter the scene by stepping off the stern ramp of a CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter during a dramatic helicopter resupply and medevac mission at Hill 881-South, a critical outpost during the siege. The exhibit is "a circular immersive environment," Ruggieri said. It is designed to look exactly like the outpost, right down to the howitzer, mortar and bunker in the scene.
In each of the galleries, Ruggieri explained, stories will be told with maps, graphics, photos, video clips, audio recordings of first-person narratives, interactive computers and small artifacts. So realistic are the exhibits that museum officials plan to post disclaimers that some visitors may find them disturbing, he said.
Eventually, other galleries will be added to depict the Marines' history during other eras, including the Revolutionary and Mexican-American wars, as well as the U.S. Civil war and World War I. Plans call for the museum to be incorporated into a Marine Corps Heritage Center, which will include a large-screen theater, memorial park, parade ground, hotel, and conference facilities.