Memorial Display Room offers history, artifacts
Arlington National Cemetery
August, 2014 | By Julia LeDoux
U.S. Army Center of Military History designer Roxann Showers designed the new exhibits beside the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. The exhibit opened recently as part of the observance of the 150th anniversary of the first burial at the cemetery in 1864. Ms. Showers also designed the first new exhibits in twenty years at the Arlington National Cemetery Welcome Center, which opened in January 2013.
ARLINGTON, Va. - When you think of Arlington National Cemetery, what comes to mind?
The final resting place of a loved one or battle buddy? JFK's gravesite? The Tomb Guards who stand watch 24/7? How about the Memorial Display Room?
Nestled between the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Memorial Amphitheater in an area that originally and still serves as a staging area for VIPs before they spoke at the amphitheater, the Memorial Display Room houses artifacts that bring ANC's history and mission to life.
"If a visitor makes their way through the welcome center and comes here, you're going to get a very good sense of the cemetery and then specifically the history of the amphitheater and tomb," said ANC Command Historian Steve Carney.
Displays in the welcome center were changed in January of 2013 and now tell the story and significance of ANC to the nation, a theme that is continued and expanded upon in the Memorial Display Room.
Arlington National Cemetery
"It puts Arlington National Cemetery in context," said Carney. "Here, we pick up from down there, the importance of Decoration Day/Memorial Day to the cemetery and then we tell the story of this place."
Various exhibits, photographs and artifacts in the Memorial Display Room tell of the importance of first Decoration Day and later Memorial Day to the cemetery. Wall mounted panels describe how the holiday that honors the nation's war dead began, said Carney. ANC is home to two amphitheaters, the Memorial Amphitheater and the recently renamed James Tanner Memorial Amphitheater, where Decoration Day services were held from 1868 until the Memorial Amphitheater was dedicated May 15, 1920.
"What is known as the old amphitheater was constructed to support Decoration Day," Carney said.
The Memorial Display Room houses plaques and other tributes presented in honor of the service members from World War I, World War II and Korea interred at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and describes how each unknown was selected.
Carney said his favorite display in the room is the World War I case which contains the flag that draped the casket of the unknown when he was interred at the cemetery Nov. 11, 1921, as well as his Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart medals. The case also contains the unknown's Victoria Cross and the telegram awarding him that honor from England's King George V.
"It wasn't just about telling the story here, it was about making sure we were protecting all of these items," he said as he gestured around the room. "They are all items of national historical importance and they are irreplaceable."
The Memorial Display Room also tells the story of how the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was initially conceived, how the sarcophagus was constructed and has a wall devoted to the Tomb Guards.
The Memorial Display Room is open during regular operating hours of Arlington National Cemetery: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. (April to September) and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (October to March). The cemetery is open every day of the year. It is only closed for special events. For more information, visit the Cemetery's website at www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/Explore-the-Cemetery.