by Circe Olson Woessner
When I first read the e-mail, my heart skipped a beat.
“On behalf of the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH), I am delighted to inform you that the Museum of the American Military Family and Learning Center was selected as the 2018 Albert B. Corey Award winner by the Leadership in History Awards committee. The AASLH Leadership in History Awards is the nation’s most prestigious competition for recognition of achievement in state and local history.”
In 2011, when we founded the museum, our small board had no idea what we were doing. We had an idea—and good intentions—and that was about it. We were not museum people; we were federal employees and retirees. We knew we wanted our museum to have meaningful, thoughtful programming, and that it would touch on all aspects of military life—the good, the bad, and everything in between. We wanted to portray an accurate picture into military family life, and to represent all types of military families.
I continued reading.
“The Albert B. Corey Award is named in honor of a founder and former president of AASLH and recognizes primarily volunteer-operated organizations that best display the qualities of vigor, scholarship, and imagination in their work. We congratulate you for the work that has brought this honor.”
Without a formal museum background, we had to be creative and intuitive. What would we military families like to tell? We collected stories for our anthologies, From the Front lines to the Home Front:New Mexicans Reflect on War, War Child: Lessons Learned from Growing Up in War,and Shout! Sharing Our Truths: Writings from LGBT Veterans and their Families, and hosted theatrical productions, we created exhibits such as Sacrifice & Service: The American Military Family, Schooling With Uncle Sam, GI Jokesand Inside Out: Memories From Inside the Closet. With these exhibits, we discussed military family life, showcased the DoD schools’ history, explained military humor, and, though art, shared LGBT service members’ experiences. We built a memorial to military families up in Santa Fe. Our small volunteer force poured our heart and soul into our programming.
It was because we tell the military family story in creative ways, we were awarded the Corey Award.
We’ve used hot pads, ACU shirts and pants, aprons and paper as canvas to create a visual portrait of military family life. We’ve collaborated in theatrical productions and filmed a short documentary, Love Song for the Dead: Honoring the Sacrifice & Service of New Mexico’s Military Families. In late 2018-2019 we plan exhibits around Host Nation Hospitality, Addiction/Recovery, and a Korean War-era Christmas exhibit and picture book set in Cold War Japan. We are collaborating on a play with several theatrical groups in Richmond, VA, thanks to a generous grant from the Arcus Foundation.
Because people process information in different ways, every year we think of new ways to tell the military family story, and as things change, we try to keep up with history.
We could not have received the Corey award without all the people out there—to include Nucleus readers—who have offered suggestions, contributed a story or two, or who have answered a call to volunteer or to donate items. We depend on the generosity of strangers to donate a dollar to two to our coffers to fund a project and to help us pay the rent.
We are excited for the future—and want to thank you for your support—and your trust. We could not tell your story without your permission—and we are proud that so many people have trusted us with their memories.
If you haven’t visited us, yet—please do—we are open weekends from 12:30-5:00 and by appointment.