The Freedom Museum in Manassas is on a short list of potential sites for a Virginia military history museum scheduled to be taken up in the next session of the Virginia General Assembly in January.
The idea of a state military museum was first proposed by Delegate Harry J. Parrish (R-Prince William), and it is currently being studied by a feasibility committee in the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.
"We are determining the interest and the artifacts available, and we will write a report to the General Assembly on our findings," department spokesman Gary Waugh said.
The museum would occupy at least 100 acres and must have close access to an interstate highway, a train station and an airport. Other potential considerations include the nearby availability of other tourist attractions, proximity to military bases or the Pentagon, and access to a body of water for naval demonstrations.
At a July 27 meeting of the feasibility committee, representatives from several potential sites, including Norfolk, Williamsburg, Danville, Camp Pickett, Camp Lee and Fort Belvoir, presented their conceptions of the museum. If the museum is deemed feasible, its site will be selected by November, Waugh said.
"We've got a fight on our hands, no doubt about it," said Chuck Colgan Jr., president of the Freedom Museum. "But I think Manassas is the ideal location, and we have multiple sites that might be available."
Colgan said Manassas is perfectly situated, right at the nexus of a web of local military tourist attractions. To the north, a new Smithsonian Air and Space Museum is slated to open near Dulles Airport in three years. To the southeast, a state-of-the-art $100 million Marine Corps Heritage Center is being built in Quantico. To the northeast lie the Vietnam War and Korean War memorials, which together attract more than 6 million visitors a year.
And the Manassas Civil War battlefield, and its estimated 1 million visitors a year, is just next door.
"We're dead center of all of that, the anchor of a corridor of history," Colgan said. "Historically we have held the high ground, and now Manassas can become a staging area for America's 25 million veterans."
Colgan said the Virginia chapters of the nation's top three veterans organizations--the Vietnam Veterans of America, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion--have all passed resolutions supporting the Freedom Museum's bid.
Colgan estimated such a museum would cost $15 million, which could be raised through a partnership between the state and veterans organizations.