Monday, Jul 23, 2012
Sixty-eight years ago, on July 21, 1944, American troops spilled blood and wrote history. At that time, Guam became a fiercely contested battleground, an island in the Pacific that militaries fought and killed for. The bravery and the sacrifice of those who participated in the Pacific campaigns of World War II must never be forgotten. New museum exhibits were recently unveiled at the T. Stell Newman Visitor Center that share their story. Many staff members, partners, community members, and other collaborators worked tirelessly to bring the exhibits to completion.
Guam's location and rich history have molded the island and formed it with sensitive, sometimes controversial, stories that appeal to many. The new visitor center exhibits answer that call and will reach a broad spectrum of international visitors and locals, scholars and novices, young people who are just learning about the war, and elderly who experienced it.
In conjunction with the island's 68th Liberation Festivities, the park hosted a grand opening night for honored visiting veterans of World War II and island's elderly who lived through the war.
Among her other remarks at the opening ceremony, visiting Pacific West Regional Director Christine Lehnertz said, "It is an achievement -- the technology here. It is amazing, and is frankly very cool as well."
Perhaps she was referring to the interactivity, multiple languages, and personal stories that make history, nature, and environmental issues relevant. Or she might have meant the groundbreaking advancements in accessibility, which open up the exhibits to those with disabilities by providing narration, captions, assisted listening, and audio description tracks. (Audio description provides an additional narration track for blind and visually impaired visitors which describes the experience of the sighted visitor through audio. The track for each piece of media is transmitted to portable receivers provided by the park that are triggered to play when in proximity to the media.)
With the completion of this extensive visitor center renovation, War in the Pacific National Historical Park has moved to the forefront of technology and accessibility within the National Park Service, even surpassing most other government and private organizations providing comparable services.
These exhibits are a gift to the island, to use again and again. They honor the veterans and participants who attended the opening ceremony. They will continue to serve as physical, tangible references to remind visitors of the island's established legacy and traditions, as well as spark new conversations and ideas about its destiny.