National Museum of the Marine Corps: New Addition

Went back to the Marine Corps museum when I was in NoVa a couple weeks ago. They added a couple new areas to it since I went there last year, one on “the early days” (pre WWI) and one on World War I. Now that those areas are open, it’s hard to imagine the museum without them.

Of those two areas, I think I dug the early years part the most, maybe just because it’s a more-forgotten time. It covered a lot of “expansion era” Marine Corps activities, where the Corps acted as an expeditionary force in securing colonies in, frex, the Philippines.

Like the rest of the museum, these new areas do some cool stuff to help the visitor experience the history they’re viewing. Like in the Philippines occupation area, you walk through this “tent” and through one “wall” of the tent, you can see shadows of marines hanging out by the fire, wearing expedition hats, whittling sticks, and smoking pipes. It’s simple and not very data-rich, but it’s ingenious in its ability to convey how it might have felt to actually be a marine stationed in the Philippines at the turn of the century (minus the heat and humidity). No plaque could have conveyed that.

Photo:

The World War I exhibit was also strong, although it started off with a short, made-for-museum video loop of a kid dressed up like in the old days hawking newspapers on an in-studio streetcorner. Hated that. The kid actor was terrible, like he was trying to channel Meeno Peluce. Children should *never* be allowed to act. I don’t know why I’m the only person who seems to have realized this universal truth. I guess this kind of intro might appeal to blue-hairs, but man it was tacky and over-the-top. To me.

The rest of World War I was good, though. They had a short Belleau Wood reenactment video (yes, made-for-museum) that I liked a lot. They did with it what I always thought every war movie always should have done (but did the opposite instead) in that I think they saturated the colors on the film. Most (recent) war movies (e.g., Private Ryan, Band of Brothers) have de-saturated the color (= made the colors less vibrant) in order to give them an “authentic”, sentimental, old feel. OTOH, every first-hand account of front-line warfare that I’ve read has expressed that, in battle, combatants’ senses have been in overdrive. In that sense, it seems to me like an over-saturated color palette would best convey the image of warfare and I think that’s what they did here. (I can’t prove that they saturated the colors, but they definitely didn’t de-saturate.)

They might have shifted things a little to the blue, too.

And for the sake of playing copy editor (how fun!), they had a sign there that referred to German soldiers calling the marines “teufelhunden” (sic). That’d be capitalized in German and pretty sure it should’ve been on the sign, too.

Also watched the museum movie this time (I guess I didn’t last time — it was totally new to me). It’s a great, engaging, and moving ten-minute branding video that hits everything it should and does it without feeling too sentimental, although it did include senators John Glenn and John Warner saying (in effect) that without the Marine Corps, they wouldn’t have become senators, which to me seems like a case *against* the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps: we make politicians! Yikesnothankyou, etc. IMHO. Perhaps Sens. Warner and Glenn also appropriate(d) funds for museums, which doesn’t lessen the problem.

The Marines are still really good at telling stories and this is still very possibly the most cogent, most nailed-it museum I’ve been to. With the new galleries, it’d be kind of a long day to go all the way through in one shot. I’m not sure who my audience is for this post.

Ending so with,

bkd

About Brian Dunn

More solipsistic than most.
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