By Miriam Rodriguez
WSMR Public Affairs
Museum Director Darren Court points out where the exhibits will be once the museum is completed.
White Sands Missile Range Museum Preparing for Reopening
The new and improved White Sands Missile Range Museum is coming together and will soon be the place to be to learn about the history of the area.
Contractors were at the museum May 23 to install the interior walls.
Museum Director Darren Court said this is phase two of four phases of installation before the museum’s projected opening date in September 2022.
“Over the next ten days they are installing all the interior walls that will be part of the museum displays in preparation for the installation of the graphics and images, which they will do in the next month,” Court said.
For now, the contractors are bringing in the walls and making sure they are connected to the floors and up to the ceilings and making sure everything is positioned correctly. The contractors setting up the walls work for Museum Arts Inc. which builds and installs displays.
The first phase included the installation of the exterior walls inside the building.
The third phase is the installation of the large laminate graphics and wall papers and images they will be putting on the walls.
The fourth phase, which is scheduled for August, is the installation of the cases and the actual laying of the artifacts into the mounts that are being created for the artifacts.
Court said the contractors are using a mannequin maker to make mannequins specifically for this museum in custom made cases.
“This is all part of the new museum exhibit which we started working on about five years ago before COVID hit,” Court said.
Court wrote the museum story line and created a museum plan with all the text, images, photographs, and labels to be included in the displays. He then took that to the Center for Military History for editing and approval.
During COVID Court spent a lot of time researching and writing and was able to locate documents and photos to help put together a complete package for the exhibit.
He said the approval was about a year long process. Then it went to the exhibit designer who worked about a year on the actual layout design of the new exhibits.
Getting the package out for contracting was delayed due to COVID. Court said that delay ended up being advantageous because during that time CMH was able to find more funding for the museum. So now instead of just being a million dollar exhibit the museum will now have a 2.5 million exhibit.
“Just to see the whole thing go from my ideas of what I always wanted this place to be to where we are now has been enlightening, “Court said.
He said he took the time to listen to the different stake holders, commanders, and the historical foundation, and researching what other Army Historical Museums around the world are doing.
Court said he got permission to bring in not only the rockets and missiles, but the frontier Army piece as well. “That was one thing we did in the story line, and we got permission to add that piece. We are the only museum to make that happen.”
Anything that happened on the lands that the Army now occupies in the area is going to be included as part of the new exhibits.
Court said something that is very interesting about this Army Museum as opposed to others, is that they will have twice as much text in the exhibits as museums three times the size of this one due to the nature of the topics covered, such as how rockets work and nuclear fission.
“It has been really enlightening and eye opening to see the whole process of taking basically a museum from the ground up. That is essentially what we have done. We are starting all over.,” Court said. “The quality is going to be something that people on the installation have never seen done before here at WSMR. The quality of the graphics and the materials is going to be comparable to something like walking into one of the Smithsonian Museums.”
Court is asking anyone who may have documents, photographs, books, diagrams, and anything that relates to any of the history at WSMR to please contact him and he would be glad to take it.
“If your office is needing to get rid of stuff in an old filing cabinet, please reach out to us first. If you have a whole bunch of books that relate to the Army of New Mexico we are looking for that kind of stuff for our library.”
The museum will also include an Archival Research Center in the back room that will include a library where people can come do research. There will also be a STEM center where students can use computers to learn more about the field. Court said this will be both a museum and educational center.
“If you care to, you are going to learn a lot. That is our job, to educate and now we are going to be able to do that.”