HAI Creates Content for Compelling New Arsenal of Democracy Exhibit at The National WWII Museum

Date: July 28, 2017
Contact: Anne Strong
Telephone: (301) 279-9697

America’s soldiers waged war thousands of miles from the mainland during World War II, but victory was ensured on the home front. The National WWII Museum’s newest permanent exhibit, The Arsenal of Democracy: The Herman and George Brown Salute to the Home Front, brings to life the people, events, actions, and convictions that fueled the war effort. The new galleries opened on June 10, 2017.

The nearly 10,000-square-foot exhibit uses personal narratives, compelling artifacts, and immersive environments to tell the story of the war’s origins and impact at home. As part of the content development team, HAI worked closely with exhibit designers Gallagher & Associates and subject matter experts at the Museum to research and develop important narratives, write the script, and select evocative images that add depth and insight to exhibit text.

Imagery throughout the Arsenal of Democracy exhibit creates instant connections between visitors and the important narratives. Photo courtesy of The National WWII Museum.

The exhibit’s story of how the majority of Americans experienced World War II begins in the wake of the First World War, when the Treaty of Versailles, the Great Depression, and the rise of fascism generated international uncertainty and unrest. It continues on a chronological and thematic journey that explores major events leading up to U.S. entry into the war. Through Gallup polls and personal stories, the exhibit highlights the debate over isolation and intervention. With the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor—illustrated with a 180 degree media experience, maps, and imagery—the visitor is launched into the war. Throughout the pavilion, visitors step into settings that convey the deep impact war had on Americans.  Newspapers, personal stories, and imagery provide visitors with a sense of the war’s reach into individual lives. Rich multi-media experiences allow visitors to explore first-hand accounts of those who lived through the momentous events, witness the shock and chaos of the Pearl Harbor attack, and learn how workers on the home front mobilized for victory on a re-created factory floor.

To bring these stories to life and allow visitors to connect with the World War II experience on a personal level, HAI conducted research in a wide variety of sources. Historians collected information on major themes, pivotal events, companies, and individuals to develop text for the exhibit. Researchers located imagery for the exhibit’s immersive environments, including street scenes from the 1940s, contemporary newspapers and magazine covers, and views of the secret atomic facilities. Additionally, HAI created custom maps and helped develop infographics. These visuals illustrate the growing Axis threats to the United States, how the U.S. supplied its allies through the lend-lease program, and the vast transportation network that made the arsenal of democracy a reality.

Exhibit from the “United but Unequal: I Am an American” gallery. Photo courtesy of The National WWII Museum.

While mobilization united many Americans behind the war effort, it was critical to convey that experience did not affect everyone equally. In order to tell a holistic story, the project team sought to balance stories of innovation, collaboration, and inclusivity with those of suspicion and prejudice. Our historians researched stories of fear and inequality that were interwoven with those of mobilization, accomplishment, and diversity. In order to meet the booming demand at his seven landing craft production plants, Andrew Higgins hired African Americans, women, seniors, and people with disabilities, creating the first racially integrated workforce in New Orleans. But the war also exposed deep racial divides. Overseas, American soldiers fought against racism and fascism in a segregated army. At home, African Americans struggled for equal treatment in the workforce and the armed services, while an atmosphere of deep suspicion led to the internment of thousands of Japanese American citizens. For the “United but Unequal: I Am an American” gallery, the content team found narratives and images that brought these experiences to light, such as the story of William Nakamura. Nakamura volunteered to join the army after he was incarcerated at the Minidoka Relocation Center. In Italy, Nakamura sacrificed his life to save his platoon, but did not receive the Medal of Honor until the year 2000.

Imagery creates instant connections between visitors and these important narratives. The content team researched and acquired over 350 images for the home front pavilion. The images come from approximately 60 national and international repositories, from the Library of Congress to the Berkeley Historical Society and Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Israel. Powerful photographs—bustling factory floors lined with tanks or an “I Am An American” sign hanging over the door of a Japanese-American owned grocery store—set the mood and tell a story without words. Such visuals are critical to the development of an effective and compelling exhibit.

The Arsenal of Democracy: The Herman and George Brown Salute to the Home Front joins several other exhibits at The National WWII Museum to which HAI has contributed, including the Road to Berlin and Road to Tokyo exhibits that focus on the military effort in the European and Pacific theaters.

About The National WWII Museum

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 future generations will know 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, it celebrates the American Spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifices of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and served on the Home Front. For more information, call 877-813-3329 or 504-528-1944 or visit nationalww2museum.org.

About HAI

For more than 35 years, HAI has helped clients to bring knowledge forward – use the past to inform the present and prepare for the future. The company’s historians and archivists research and write histories, create educational experiences, preserve and manage historical content, and conduct specialized historical research for corporations, government agencies, law firms, and nonprofit organizations worldwide.

For more information, call (301) 279-9697 or contact HAI today.

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