For nearly 15 years the first thing visitors encountered when they entered the main exhibit gallery at the Richard I Bong Veterans Historical Center was a case titled “Winds of War.” The case featured a bevy of information and photos relating to the start of World War II including pictures of Axis leaders, a Nazi flag and weaponry.
“The case did its job,” said Hayes Scriven, Executive Director for the Center, “you would walk in and see a picture of Hitler and a Nazi flag and it caught your attention.” However, a month ago, that case was emptied to get ready for something new, and eye-catching.
On April 18th the Center is opening two new displays that are in the first phase of a major exhibit redesign. First is an expansion of the Major Richard Bong story. “We have never shown where Major Bong was in the South Pacific or detailed his combat missions,” Scriven stated. The new display features three large maps that show the exact location of Bong’s 40 victories achieved over three tours of duty.
Briana Fiandt, Curator of Collections, oversaw the development of the new display, and stated, “In addition to the maps, the display features excerpts from Major Bong’s mission reports, so you get to read how he saw combat. It is important for the public to see how he (Bong) remembered his missions in that it provides a personal connection to history.”
In addition, to the expansion of the combat story on display the Center has updated the family history section of the display, with new Bong artifacts never before seen.
As part of the redesign the Center has also created a new display listing all of the Medal of Honor recipients from Minnesota and Wisconsin from the Civil War to today. The display highlights four Northland area service members’ stories. This new display better represents the Center’s current mission, which honors all veterans from WW II to present day.
The Center is also in the early stages of filming new video content for the Center. The Center currently has interviewed 12 veterans who served in conflicts ranging from WW II to present day. The videos will tell the broader story of local veterans, and the first video is set to be completed sometime in June.
The Center is hosting an exhibit opening and Chamber Business After 5 on April 18th at 5:00 p.m. Hors d’oeuvres will be provide by Blackwoods Catering and Northwest Beverage. That night donations are being collected for the Douglas County Veteran Service Office.