The New Arlington Cemetery Welcome Center
Honor, Remember, and Explore
CMH, May 10, 2013
Arlington National Cemetery asked The U.S. Army Center of Military History to provide curatorial and design services and oversight of contracted fabrication and installation for the first new exhibits in ANC's Welcome Center in more than twenty years. CMH curators and historians developed a storyline that addressed three themes identified in ANC's master plan - Honor, Remember, and Explore - while also providing a brief narrative of milestones in the Cemetery's history.
Two existing niches in the perimeter walls, and a third newly-created niche, house text, images, and artifacts related to the three themes. The "Honor" niche illustrates and explains the components of a military funeral - the caisson, folded flag, and "Taps" - and includes the Army, Air Force, and Navy Medals of Honor. The "Remember" niche depicts and discusses some of the many monuments and memorials on the cemetery grounds and includes the bugle played at President Kennedy's interment. The "Explore" niche familiarizes visitors with online, interactive, and interpretive services.
In the center of the Welcome Center, six horizontal panels tell the story of Arlington from its inception as a private estate to its conversion to a military cemetery during the Civil war, the establishment of a Freedman Village on part of the estate, the Cemetery's rise to preeminence among American military cemeteries, the burial of President John F. Kennedy, and an explanation of annual rituals such as "flags in," whereby American flags are placed on each grave at Memorial Day.
A separate case houses rotational displays of artifacts presented to Arlington National Cemetery by distinguished domestic and foreign visitors.
The Final Tribute
At the center of the Welcome Center is a cast figure of a present-day Army bugler playing "Taps."
The "Explore" niche includes a kiosk enabling visitors to explore Arlington's grounds remotely and locate burial sites by individual name.
In The Beginning
This panel narrates the history of Arlington from Custis family private estate to its seizure by U.S. forces when its last occupants, Colonel and Mrs. Robert E. Lee, sided with the Confederacy in 1861.
Light and Day
Light entering through the glass roof alters the exhibits' appearance at different hours of day. The perimeter walls feature nineteen large graphics of views and events at Arlington National Cemetery.
This panel tells the story of the Freedman Village erected on part of the Arlington estate in 1863 to house slaves freed by the Emancipation Proclamation.
President Kennedy's Interment
Assassinated President John F. Kennedy's burial at Arlington gave the cemetery huge recognition, leading to an increase in requests for burials and a tightening of qualifications for burials there.