Curator Corner - Meet the National VA History Center Core Project Team
A key first step in developing a new museum is an Interpretive Master Plan (IMP) and a project team to create it. On June 9, 2021, a group of VA employees (historians representing each VA administration and others from the VA History Office team) met with the staff from the Smithsonian Exhibits program. The discussion involved the development of an IMP for the National VA History Center (NVAHC) under development on Dayton VA Medical Center campus. A Core Project Team (CPT) formed following that meeting, and they are now tasked with developing the IMP for the NVAHC. The IMP will establish how the NVAHC will serve the public and what role it will play in telling the VA story.
In August of 2021, the newly formed CPT met in Dayton, Ohio. That meeting provided an opportunity for the team members to get to know one another and establish effective working relationships that define an effective team. The Team toured the Dayton campus, including the two historic buildings that will comprise the core of the NVAHC. Building 116 (Old Headquarters) will serve as the museum and building 129 (Clubhouse) will serve as the archival and collections center. The team developed a draft mission statement to guide the IMP development: tell the story of how the VA serves those who have served throughout the Nation’s history. They also worked on initial themes that define the exhibit sections and components.
“Gathering as a team on the future site of the National VA History Center at the Dayton VA Medical Center campus provided the grounding needed to start our work,” said Katie Delacenserie, Veterans Health Administration Historian. “The historic campus puts our purpose front and center and provided the focus needed in beginning to think about how we are going to tell the history of the VA.”
In December 2021 the Team reconvened in Dayton to further refine themes, define the functions the museum would provide, and continue strategic planning. Those brainstorming sessions resulted in lists of potential themes that each member will use to develop exhibit elements.
“The second meeting of the full VA History Team in Dayton built on the great progress made in our first meeting,” according to Historian Richard Hulver, a National Cemetery Administration Historian. “Together, the group mapped out the large themes that each Administration will want to tell and thought about overall cohesion of our story. We also spent time looking at the blank canvas that will be our museum and going out into the Dayton community to see how other historic buildings have been readapted for modern use.”
The CPT meets virtually on a weekly basis. It continues making significant progress outlining the themes and takeaway messages for the exhibits to be featured in the NVAHC. This is an important step to the development of the first VA museum. The museum is tentatively scheduled to open in 2026. Many other key milestones are still to come--from the IMP to opening the museum. We will keep you updated as we hit each milestone and this vision becomes a reality.
The team is listed below. You can learn more about them by following the link to the VA History Team page.
Michael Visconage, Chief Historian
Kurt Senn, Curator
Robyn Rodgers, Senior Archivist
Sara Amy Leach, NCA Senior Historian
Jeffrey Seiken, VBA Historian
Katie Delacenserie, VHA Historian
Richard Hulver, NCA Historian
By Kurt Senn, Curator, National VA History Center