On my first visit to The National World War II Museum, I was dragged kicking and screaming by friends who lived in New Orleans. They said it was amazing, but I had my doubts. I was in the city for a short visit, and I didn’t want to waste my precious NOLA time at some boring war museum. Boy was I wrong!
About the Museum
My favorite museums tend to be art and science/science related museums. The National World War II Museum in New Orleans, LA is not only my favorite history museum, but it is one of my favorite museums of all time. It even beats out the National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C.; that’s saying a lot coming from me- I ♥ natural history.
The National World War II Museum, formerly The National D-Day 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 all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn”.
The museum is currently housed in three buildings. Each building is arranged around central themes of the war, and museum exhibits offer visitors an opportunity to experience the war through the eyes of the men and women who lived it. There are some exciting interactive exhibits that are fun as well as educational and even a 4-D movie!
The museum is large and hosts tons of artifacts including photographs, weapons, dairies/journals, uniforms, medals, artwork, planes, vehicles, and so much more. I think my favorite is the oral histories from the veterans. These oral histories even showcase the factory workers who made the supplies and weapons for the war, Red Cross workers, and the brave nurses. These are real stories from real people. If you get a chance to visit, listen to a few of the oral history exhibits they have all around the museum.
The National World War II Museum has exhibits which include the roles of women, African Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans in World War II. There are also exhibits on the American Japanese internment camps as well as American propaganda posters. Often, textbooks leave out these important historical facts which dulls the true picture of historical events. The museum does not hide the ugly side of war. Some parts of the museum are tough in that aspect, but I appreciate that because it is honest and historically accurate.
Not only is the museum awesome, but it offers great food and entertainment. You can watch a live show at the Stage Door Canteen.
The museum’s website is loaded with information and artifacts for teachers, students, researchers, and history buffs. Like many sites that have an exhaustive online library, it is often difficult to navigate all the resources. However, it is certainly worth it. If you are a teacher, the website has guide of preliminary considerations when teaching WWII. There are some lesson plans along with many other resources available on the website for educators to use.
The Digital Collection of National WWII Museum is home to thousands of primary sources including images and oral histories. The website offers the visitor a way to browse a sample of these collections and purchase images if interested. Many of the oral histories that are available for purchase can be streamed for free online. So, if you can’t travel to the museum, visit the website or take a virtual field trip.
The National WWII Museum hosts learning workshops (both scholarly and more general), film screenings, a book club, family workshops, webinars, and even a victory garden.
If you are in the New Orleans area, check out the National World War II Museum. I’m sure you will enjoy it and have a great time. It is okay if you do not see all of the museum in one day. Like the TARDIS, it is bigger on the inside. That just means you will have to visit the city again to check out the museum and laissez les bons temps rouler!
Primary Sources: Pearl Harbor (includes FDR’s rough draft)
Lesson Plan: A Day of Infamy