The National Medal of Honor Museum (NMHM) held its first in a series of community stakeholder meetings aboard the U.S.S. Yorktown last week. Inside the aircraft carrier's Smokey Stover Theater, a small sample of Mount Pleasant residents engaged in a lively discussion with NMHM representatives to address the future facility's redesign, its educational features and programming plans.
The previous design was initially rejected by the town in May due to to Mount Pleasant Town Council members and Planning Commissioners rejecting the height variance request. On this parcel the maximum height is 50 feet not 80 feet as has been reported. The plan called for 140 feet.
The forum began as a fireside chat between NMHM CEO Joe Daniels and museum architect Moshe Safdie, facilitated by David McNair of the McNair Group. Daniels, who raised the money to build the September 11 Museum and Memorial in New York City, spoke in light of the qualities the NMHM organization represents. Safdie reflected on his previous designs worldwide including the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem and the United States Institute of Peace on the Washington Mall.
"When this museum gets built the focus on education and the character development of our program, and our ability to use our platform to get into every single classroom across the country is going to be of prime importance," Daniels said.
"There is no greater challenge for an architect to design a complex which has to rise up to the occasion of its significance," Safdie said. "It's not just a question of function, or making it work, it's a question of touching the soul of those who are there and honoring the recipients and their story. That is a tall order."
The conversation then evolved into a room-wide social media questionnaire seeking citizens' feedback by answering, via text message, multiple choice questions concerning the museum's most sought after aspects. Those who didn't have access to a cell phone submitted handwritten responses. The following questions were engineered by the NMHM via the McNair Group:
- What do you believe is the most important aspect to be considered in the design? The majority (40 percent) voted: It is a national monument of significance that inspires awe.
- What do you believe is the second most important? That it is in harmony with the environment/landscape (31 percent).
- What part of the museum do you believe will interest you the most? Learning about the Medal of Honor recipients and their accomplishments (72 percent).
- The following describes how I feel about the NMHM being in Mount Pleasant: It's an honor to have this in our backyard (57 percent) with 39 percent voting Patriots Point is the ideal location for this museum.
"We are trying to reach the people who have not served this country. It's important to educate what we call the 99 percenters," said Donald "Doc" Ballard, Vietnam War veteran and Medal of Honor recipient. "Less than 1 percent of our population has ever served our country in uniform so we refer to the non-veterans as 99 percenters."
"Too many of our kids today are drinking from a well that they did not have to dig," Ballard continued. "So we want to educate and try to reach the student who is unsure, unstable, whether he is lost in some terms... to influence them to be more productive and developed," he said referencing to the vignettes of U.S. military history that will be on display once the museum is complete.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Daniels and Safdie visibly smiled and nodded their heads in agreement, indicative of the positive feedback expressed in the online polls thus far.
"I've seen the buildings for which you have designed Mr. Safdie. They are boasting they are great," said John Smith, PO Naval Reserves. "Now, when I first saw your design I was proud and I was moved. However, when I saw and I read that it was denied because of the height of the building I was ashamed because you cannot build a building big enough to honor those who have done and sacrificed so much."
"Whatever the design turns out to be I'll be very comfortable," Smith added.
The next meeting is set for July 26 at Alhambra Hall where Safdie and company plan to present a few initial drawings based on feedback provided. The time has yet to be announced.
Attendance for future meetings can be confirmed by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 843-654-9469.
For more information, visit mohmuseum.org.