When one considers the purpose of a museum, one may consider its mission to preserve history. But, would one consider its mission to sustain the future? The 82nd Airborne Division War Memorial Museum considers Fort Bragg’s past as well as its posterity. Museum stewards John Aarsen, Jimmie Hallis and Ralph Alvarez have thus committed to sustainability, and the Museum has achieved certification as a “green” agency in the Fort Bragg Green Boot Program and as the first “green” museum in the Army.

One of the oldest museums in the Army, the 82nd Airborne Division War Memorial Museum was established in 1945 and has been at its current location on Ardennes Street since 1957. Its mission is to collect, protect and interpret the history of the 82nd Airborne Division. Permanent and revolving exhibits feature artifacts and displays depicting global military campaigns such as World War I, World War II, Vietnam and Operation Iraqi Freedom and humanitarian responses following national disasters such as Hurricane Andrew and Hurricane Katrina.  In addition, the Museum features vintage aircraft and artillery.

The Museum exists to preserve the past, but sustainability for the future is a major goal as well. Since sustainability is arguably a “modern” idea, the concept of a “green” museum may at first seem counterintuitive. But, the Museum reconciles the customary with the contemporary quite adeptly. “Our job is to conserve the history of the Division for generations to come, so sustainable practices just naturally suit some of our efforts,” said Aarsen, the museum director.

Aarsen, Hallis, Alvarez and the Soldiers who are detailed at the Museum have indeed implemented common sustainability initiatives such as energy conservation, water conservation and recycling. But, they have also identified very unique opportunities to incorporate environmentally sound practices into their operations. In fact, some of their operations are inherently sustainable. The Museum must maintain a certain temperature to protect the artifacts in the collections. “Artifacts love cold temperatures,” Aarsen explained. “So, we are able to reduce our heating costs and conserve energy.” They have also converted some of the lighting in the galleries to Light Emitting Diodes, or LEDs. “The LEDs will conserve energy and money as well because they are more efficient and cost less than incandescent bulbs to operate,” said Hallis, the Museum’s collections curator. “They emit less heat, so they are beneficial for the artifacts, and they have a longer life.”  The Museum plans to incorporate more LEDs into future gallery lighting projects. In addition, the Museum must use gentle cleansers for exhibit maintenance to avoid potential harm to the artifacts and displays.

Furthermore, some of the exhibits feature reclaimed materials. Among the many exhibits that have graced the Museum’s rotating gallery, an exhibit on the Division’s participation in the humanitarian aid efforts in Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina featured reclaimed roofs and shipping containers. The Museum constructed an Operation Iraqi Freedom display with repurposed window screens and telephone wires. The current exhibit on The Golden Brigade in Vietnam features recycled corrugated metal, environmentally preferred carpeting and salvaged ammunition crates. Many of the materials are recovered from construction and demolition sites on the installation, and some items have been obtained from Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services. “By using reclaimed materials, we save money, and we save materials from the landfill,” Hallis explained. “All of the items serve a distinct purpose, and we always save the materials for use in future exhibits.”

All of the innovative sustainability initiatives have been beneficial to the Museum. “Like many Federal agencies, the 60 museums in the Army are expected to do more with less,” said Aarsen. “Participation in the Green Boot Program has been a practical means to lessen both our fiscal and environmental impacts. The benefits of the program are longevity and survivability. We have to consider our future. The Museum connects people with the history of Fort Bragg, and we want that legacy to last forever. We have to be willing to take care of that legacy.”

“We want the Soldiers to know that we will always be here,” Hallis added. “Our purpose is to train and educate, and now we can train and educate not only on the history of the 82nd Airborne Division but on the importance of sustainability as well.”

Aarsen and Hallis said that they also hope to encourage other military museums to understand the need for sustainability and to pursue their own “green” projects. Through their Green Boot Program, they wish to communicate to the Army and to their nearly 50,000 annual visitors that the Museum is positively contributing to the fiscal and environmental futures of the Department of Defense.

“We have existed for almost 70 years,” said Aarsen. “We want to exist for another 70 years.”

The 82nd Airborne Division War Memorial Museum is located at C-6841 Ardennes Street on Fort Bragg. To learn more, visit www.82ndAirborneDivisionMuseum.com or call 432.3443/5307.

The Green Boot Program is an opportunity for units and agencies on post to enhance their missions through resource stewardship. The goal of the program is to reduce environmental impacts at a unit or directorate level, thus securing Fort Bragg as a functional military installation for future generations of Soldiers, Civilians and their Families. For more information on the Green Boot Program, contact program coordinator Stacey Harter at 396.8586/2019 or visit http://sustainablefortbragg.com/green-boot-program.