In Sag Harbor, N.Y., American Legion Post 388 is working to create a free public museum to honor the area's American veterans. If all goes according to plan, the museum could open as soon as 2017.
A chief goal will be sharing Sag Harbor residents' military service history through more than 500 artifacts the post has amassed since its founding in 1919, said Paul Gerecke, the post's financial officer. The post hopes to cater hours toward tourists visiting the restaurant it leases part of its space to, those people who might wander in during wait times, for instance, Gerecke said.
Currently, these historical pieces are really only available to Legionnaires.
"It’s a way of taking this room full of artifacts — some of which nobody has seen because we were so pressed for space. They were just packed away in boxes for storage. We can break this stuff out and anybody will be able to come in," Gerecke said. "Come in and take a look around, learn about Sag Harbor and its men and women who served both in peace and war."
These artifacts include field equipment, uniforms, medals, documents and photographs. Among them, some highlights are "original portraits" of some of Sag Harbor's Civil War veterans and an M-16 that author John Steinbeck brought back as a gift from Gen. William Westmoreland upon visiting Vietnam, Gerecke said.
Plans for the about 500-foot space include a progressive timeline as a visitor moves through the museum, as well as rotating exhibits, with special topics such as the war industry in the area during the World Wars. Members will help supply historical context and act as docents. Items were cataloged during a recent renovation.
While donations from late members have provided much of the funding for the project, Gerecke said the post will fundraise as well, including an effort to add nameplates (regardless of Legion affiliation) honoring local veterans on the Wall of Service in the Legion's ballroom.