NEW ORLEANS (June 6, 2023) — The National WWII Museum will open the highly anticipated Liberation Pavilion, its final permanent exhibit hall, and officially dedicate the Col. Battle Barksdale Parade Ground, an outdoor gathering space in the heart of the New Orleans campus, on Nov. 3, 2023—in time for the last surviving members of the WWII generation to experience what has been built in their honor. The November celebration will mark the completion of the $400 million Road to Victory Capital Campaign that has propelled the extraordinary growth of the Museum’s campus from one exhibit hall to seven pavilions over the past two decades. The public announcement of this historic milestone capped off the Museum’s June 6 commemorations of the 79th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy and the 23rd anniversary of the Museum’s Grand Opening.
“The National WWII Museum has the incredible responsibility and privilege of telling one of the most important stories in human history. Liberation Pavilion will be a powerful addition to the Museum experience, providing visitors with a deeper understanding of the cost of our victory and the war’s enduring impacts,” said Stephen J. Watson, President & CEO of The National WWII Museum. “This milestone moment will be a celebration of the Museum’s unbelievable growth but also a special opportunity to pay tribute to the men and women who helped secure victory in World War II and reflect on our own role in carrying on their legacies.”
Liberation Pavilion explores the end of World War II, the Holocaust, the postwar years and how the war continues to impact our lives today. The three-story pavilion, made possible through the generous support of private donors and the State of Louisiana, houses two floors of exhibit space featuring first-person accounts, iconic imagery, powerful artifacts and immersive environments, as well as a third-floor theater offering audiences a brand-new cinematic experience.
“World War II was one of the most significant conflicts in history. Liberation Pavilion will help us tell a more complete story of the American experience in the war and emphasize how its far-reaching impacts continue to affect our lives today,” said Michael Bell, PhD, Executive Director of the Jenny Craig Institute for the Study of War and Democracy. “The Pavilion will highlight the lasting legacies of the war around the world and help visitors understand that the fight for freedom and democracy will never truly end.”
The Pavilion’s first floor galleries, Finding Hope in a World Destroyed, will honor the sacrifices of the WWII generation and explore the immense cost of war with exhibits on the Holocaust, Anne Frank, faith in wartime, and the Monuments Men and Women. The first floor will also include a panoramic theater with personal testimonies from Holocaust survivors and the US forces who liberated them as well as an interfaith chapel to provide a quiet space for contemplation.
The second floor of Liberation, the Goldring Family Foundation and Woldenberg Foundation Forces of Freedom at Home and Abroad (1945–Present), will explore the war’s impact in the postwar period and its lasting legacies today. Exhibits will examine the rebuilding efforts of a world destroyed, the war crimes trials, the emergence of the US as a world “superpower,” movements for social change and civil rights, new technological innovations and the war’s impact on foreign policy. An interactive gallery will provide a reflective space for visitors to voice their thoughts on the war’s legacy and what it means today.
On the third floor, the Priddy Family Foundation Freedom Theater will offer audiences a multimedia experience focused on what was at stake during World War II and the meaning of Allied victory. The production, being developed by The Hettema Group, will highlight how freedom and democracy were nearly extinguished from the world in the 1930s and 1940s while also portraying how America helped to defend and promote freedom and human rights after World War II. At a pivotal moment in the show, the theater audience platform itself will rotate.
Adjacent to Liberation Pavilion, the 24,000-square-foot Col. Battle Barksdale Parade Ground is an impressive outdoor space at the heart of the Museum’s campus. Its dedication comes almost two decades after the first major donation to the Road to Victory Capital Campaign by Donna and Jim Barksdale, then a Museum Trustee, who earmarked the funds for a future parade ground in honor of his uncle Colonel Battle Barksdale, an Army officer in World War II.
The beginnings of the Museum date back to 1990, when University of New Orleans professors Stephen Ambrose, PhD, and Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, PhD, discussed plans for a modest D-Day museum. A decade later, The National D-Day Museum opened with great fanfare and much enthusiasm for the institution to expand to tell the full story of the American experience in World War II. In 2003, Mueller and the Board of Trustees led the development of a Master Plan for the expansion of The National WWII Museum with architects Voorsanger-Mathes and exhibit designer Gallagher & Associates. Congress designated the Museum as America’s official national museum for World War II, preceding the 2004 launch of the Road to Victory Capital Campaign that is successfully concluding this year. Donors to the $400 million campaign have enabled the Museum to quadruple the size of its campus and to grow its collections, endowment, and educational programs.
“We have achieved something beyond what Stephen Ambrose and I could have imagined when we set out to create The National D-Day Museum,” said Mueller, Museum President & CEO Emeritus. “Steve often spoke of his dream for the Museum to serve as a ‘love song to democracy,’ a dream that has come true over the past 20 years. Now, we can more fully thank the WWII generation and show the world what their fight for freedom means today.”
The Nov. 3 Grand Opening will be part of the Museum’s weeklong D-Day to Liberation: Road to Victory Celebration, which will include a series of private and public events to honor the WWII generation and thank the many supporters who made the campus expansion possible. During this weeklong celebration, The National WWII Museum will also host Medal of Honor Recipients and their families in New Orleans for the 2023 Congressional Medal of Honor Society Convention, presented by the Stephen G. and Regina Oswald Foundation.
The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world—why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today—so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America’s National WWII Museum, the institution celebrates the American spirit, teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifices of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and served on the Home Front. For more information on Tripadvisor’s #1 New Orleans attraction, call 877-813-3329 or 504-528-1944 or visit nationalww2museum.org.