Thursday, June 12, 2008

D-Day in New Orleans

Ending my trip with a visit to the D Day Museum was perfect. While my trip had the dual focus of the Civil Rights Movement and the Civil War, I couldn’t leave this part of the country without coming to New Orleans and seeing the museum. I have been looking forward to the visit since I learned of the museum years ago, and I wasn’t disappointed.
My visit began with a discussion with Kenneth Hoffman, the Director of Education for the museum. He described some of the educational components offered by his staff, including videoconferencing on different topics of interest. This could become an exciting part of our study of WWII in the spring. Mr. Hoffman also discussed the importance of developing a sense of place in teaching history, something that is challenging but essential. I really enjoyed our conversation, as it reinforced why I was traveling in the first place and will hopefully lead to additional communication with him and the museum.
The museum itself is full of content, audio, video, and images dealing with World War II. The main exhibits are on Operation Overlord in Normandy and the various D-Days in the Pacific theater. The D-Day exhibit covered every possible aspect of the invasion. While I knew a fair amount, I walked away with a more complete understanding of D-Day, especially after listening to the various oral histories that are part of the exhibit. The best resource was Mr. Blakey, a guide who was a paratrooper on June 6, 1944. He is the true example of living history. The Pacific theater exhibit gave me some additional insight into the complicated military operations in that arena. I also learned much more about the racist propaganda used on both sides of the war (US and Japan). The exhibit ended with a very poignant display on the proposed attack on Japanese mainland and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The museum is currently undergoing a huge expansion project, and I am sure I will return in the future. They hopefully will have an educators’ conference either at the museum or in New Orleans. If not, it may be a trip for the Tafts – all five or just two.

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