11 November 2009

Wright Museum depicts life in the military and at home

The sight of a World War II Army tank crashing through a brick wall abruptly reminds us of how far-away military actions affected people on the homefront. In the lakeside resort of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, you’ll find the tank at the Wright Museum, along with artifacts that provide insight into the war and its “significant and lasting impact on American life.”

The museum is divided into two distinct sections—the homefront gallery and the military wing—linked together through an interactive time tunnel highlighting each year from 1939 to 1945.

Depicted in a series of lifesize vignettes, the homefront features a 1940s kitchen, a dentist’s office, and the ubiquitous gathering place, a soda fountain. Other displays highlight student life, sports, entertainment, fashion, science, and technology during the time period. The museum portrays how Americans supported the war effort, the importance of recycling and rationing, and women’s changing roles in times of crisis.

The museum also features fully operational military vehicles that often appear in the town’s 4th of July parades. Among the collection is the only known surviving 42-ton Pershing tank from the 1945 crossing of the Rhine River at Remagen Bridge as well as halftracks, jeeps, an ambulance, and motorcycles. Some exhibit highlights include the uniform worn by one of the men who raised the American flag during the battle of Iwo Jima; a Norden bombsight; a rare Army Air Corps Mission Map; a collection showing the contributions of women in uniform; original artwork from leading magazine illustrators of the times; and the stories and photos that put all these objects in perspective. 

Museums such as the Wright Museum help us to understand the impact of the war on our families, in a very visual and profound way.

Other noteworthy military exhibits in New England:

Battleship Cove, Fall River, MA: the world’s largest Naval Airship exhibit.

Military Museum of Southern New England, Danbury, CT.

Submarine Force Library & Museum, Groton, CT.

USS Albacore AGSS 56, Portsmouth, NH.

USS Salem CA-139, Quincy, MA: the only preserved U.S. Naval Heavy Cruiser.