Coming In On a Wing and a Prayer

The National World War II Museum is once again welcoming guests


Sometimes the lens of history helps us see current events more clearly. I’ve been thinking about the sacrifices made during World War II—how communities rallied together for the greater good—and how we can apply those lessons to the challenges we face today. In New Orleans, we benefit from the world-class museum and our top tourist attraction, The National WWII Museum.

The National WWII Museum reopened with limited capacity on Memorial Day weekend, and on June 6 it celebrated its 20th anniversary. In 2019, it set a new visitation record of 783,397 guests, marking 14 consecutive years of growth. Now, with COVID-19 temporarily closing the museum for two months, the museum says it is facing profound financial challenges. It is predicting visitation to be less than half of what was expected for the fiscal year ahead.

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“Our museum is facing the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis with the same unflinching dedication and determination needed to overcome every difficult time in our history,” said museum president and CEO Stephen J. Watson in a statement. “We only need to walk our own galleries to find the inspiration to prevail through adversity and an unpredictable future. Whether visitors are walking our physical campus or learning through our digital education platforms, it is clear that our mission continues and must endure.”

The museum is working to build back its visitation while expanding its national and international reach through distance learning, research, conferences and overseas travel programs. According to the museum, less than 300,000 World War II veterans are still alive today, and it sees a sense of urgency in completing its capital expansion plan.

To reopen safely, the museum collaborated with more than 20 national organizations, large museums, the American Alliance of Museums and local health officials. It instituted new safety supplies including masks, gloves, plexiglass sneeze guards, touchless sanitizing stations and directional signage. It will also provide a disposable stylus to guests to access interactive exhibits.

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Timed tickets must be purchased in advance to ensure capacity guidelines are being followed. The museum is requiring face coverings for all visitors, volunteers and staff, and will provide masks to visitors who do not have one. A full list of visitor guidelines is online.

The following will remain closed during the first phase of reopening: The John E. Kushner Restoration Pavilion, L.W. “Pete” Kent Train Car Experience, BB’s Stage Door Canteen, “Final Mission: USS Tang Submarine Experience” and The Jeri Nims Soda Shop. The museum’s 4D experience “Beyond All Boundaries” will run hourly at a reduced capacity of 62 people, and theater doors, railings, seats and armrests will be disinfected before each showing. The American Sector restaurant will offer counter service, and tables arranged for guests to eat at a proper distance.

The museum is currently offering free admission to medical professionals and first responders. It also participates in the Blue Star Museums program, which offers free admission to active-duty military personnel and their families, including National Guard and Reserve. On Mondays, Louisiana residents receive half-off admission. All three offers will be valid through Monday, Sept. 7.

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