By: Sandra Thompson
November 11, 2017, marks the 15th anniversary of the grand opening of the Alabama Veterans Museum and Archives. Just look how far we have come!
The Alabama Veterans Museum and Archives, located in the old L&N Freight Depot in Athens, was the idea of the late Limestone County, Alabama, Veterans Service Officer Kenneth David. Ken collected artifacts for an exhibit in 1995 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, but after the exhibit closed, he still had many artifacts left that contributors didn’t retrieve. He wanted a permanent place to display the artifacts to honor the brave men and women from the Civil War to the present who fought and died to keep our land free. The Alabama Veterans Museum and Archives opened its doors in 2000 with a few primitive displays and much renovation work still to be done. We had our Grand Opening and Dedication service on Nov. 10, 2002.
The museum is divided into three areas: the Tyler Craig Memorial Library, the Bob McAbee Exhibit Hall, and the Wendell Powers Auditorium, which commemorate the untold hours of volunteer labor these three museum board members gave, and continue to give, to this building. Visitors may tour the more than 5,000 items in our facility at their leisure or enjoy the assistance of our volunteer tour guides. We have heard it commented by visitors who have seen military museums throughout the U.S. that the charm of this museum is that it celebrates the accomplishments and sacrifices of local service persons and their families on the home front.
The Alabama Veterans Museum has become a focal point for veterans’ events, ceremonies, seminars, and meetings, as well as a significant addition to the cultural and historical life of our community. Donations of precious military artifacts are received continually from veterans and their families who wish to see them preserved for future generations, and we consider it an honor to accept them. However, in order to continue to preserve, maintain and grow our facility, we desperately need to expand. Our collection currently contains over 5000 artifacts. Although we rotate our displays, we can still only show a portion of them; an expansion would double our display space.
In addition to school tours, educating future generations is key. Everyone should learn that our freedom is not free… it was bought by men and women, many of whom paid the supreme sacrifice; therefore, our new addition will include two classrooms. We will use these classrooms to teach military history and connect science, technology, education, arts and math (STEAM) to our military. Our expansion will also allow us to host more veterans’ group meetings, commemorative events, and special programs.
We would like to thank the Limestone County Commission, our State Legislators, the City of Athens, and of course the community for their continued outstanding support! Thanks to the County Commission’s actions, it looks like our dream of expansion is finally becoming a reality! I bet you are saying to yourself, “How can I help?” There are many ways to become involved – become a member of the museum (we have several different levels), become a volunteer at the museum, or just come visit us at 100 W. Pryor St. and bring your friends! The museum is open Monday – Saturday from 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
By: Sandra Thompson, Director, Alabama Veterans' Museum