When Joe Cavanaugh talks about Pearl Harbor, Bataan, Midway and other focal points of World War II in the Pacific Theater, it takes a moment to realize he isn’t referring to the actual historic locations but rather exhibits at the newly renovated National Museum of the Pacific War on East Main Street in downtown Fredericksburg.
“At Pearl Harbor, there is an elaborate show that will run 4.5 minutes that is quite remarkable,” says Cavanaugh, site manager for the museum, a state historic site of the Texas Historical Commission. “There is an actual submarine in the exhibit, and you feel like you’re underwater with it in the light and sound show, screens surrounding you and eight projectors running.”
Even if you’ve visited the museum only a few months ago, it’s worth another trip to see the $15.5-million renovation. It offers 42,000 sq ft of new construction, including interactive media exhibits that bring history to life.
“I can honestly say that this museum will compare favorably with the most current and best museums in the country and the world in technology, exhibition, design, concept and layout,” Cavanaugh says.
The National Museum of the Pacific War is a 6 1/2 -acre complex that includes the George H.W. Bush Gallery; Admiral Nimitz Museum; Nimitz Hotel Bath House; Pacific Combat Zone; Memorial Courtyard; Japanese Garden of Peace; outdoor pavilion and plaza; Bush Gallery Museum Store; Admiral Nimitz Bookstore; and Visitor Center.
The museum is a property of the Texas Historical Commission, the state agency that oversees historic preservation, and is operated by the Admiral Nimitz Foundation, the museum’s private, nonprofit support organization.
The primary focus of the renovation was to expand the 23,000-sq-ft George H. W. Bush gallery, originally dedicated by its namesake, former President George H. W. Bush, in 1999 and again on Dec. 7, 2009, the anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. Expansion of the gallery has been planned since its original dedication but wasn’t possible until the Texas Legislature passed a bond issue in 2001 and made $10.5 million in public funds available in 2005, Cavanaugh says. The Nimitz Foundation raised the remaining $5 million.
The completed renovation is 65,000 sq ft and includes the 33,000-sq-ft Bush Gallery, which will be home to the museum’s permanent exhibit; a 2,260-sq-ft museum store; 1,750-sq-ft changing exhibit gallery; 17,500 sq ft of collections management facilities on the second and third floors; and public spaces such as lobby, restrooms and corridors, says Rob Esterlein, chief operating officer of the Nimitz Foundation.
“The existing building was largely gutted, although much of the existing HVAC and electrical systems were preserved,” Esterlein says. “The transition between the old and new...