Leaders of the three-month old Freedom Museum, the fledging homage to 20th century soldiers, presented the Board of County Supervisors with plans yesterday for a permanent home on 76 acres south of Manassas Regional Airport.
The project--envisioned as a 20th century Williamsburg and an extensive exhibit of aircraft, tanks and other machinery--will remain more vision than reality until the museum can secure the $10 million to $15 million it needs to expand.
Still, museum organizers are launching their campaign for a permanent site, hoping their plans are far enough along to entice the state to choose the Freedom Museum as the site of a Virginia military history museum.
"We're going to say, 'Here's a site, here's a design plan, here's a battle plan,' " said Chuck Colgan Jr., the museum's president and a Vietnam veteran. "We think Manassas is the permanent place for a [statewide] museum."
Once a permanent site is acquired, the museum could be "up and running" in two years, he said.
The Freedom Museum opened in July with a temporary exhibition at the airport. The sought-after permanent site comprises 26 county-owned acres surrounding the last station on the Virginia Railway Express's Manassas line and an additional 50 vacant acres next to the commuter rail property that are privately owned by the Robertson family, Colgan said.
The museum plan asks Prince William County to donate the VRE land, and possibly buy the private property, Colgan said. A 100,000-square-foot museum would feature eight exhibit halls, a veterans' visitors center, auditorium, gift shop and multipurpose space.
Standard historical exhibits of 20th century conflicts from the Spanish-American War through the two world wars to this past summer's NATO bombing campaign in the former Yugoslavia would be joined by aircraft, tanks and other machinery, according to the plans. Reenactors would depict battle scenes, adding a living history component similar to the model used at Colonial Williamsburg. The Manassas museum is staffed mostly by volunteers.
The museum has hired Chicago-based architecture firm VOA to design the project.
It was unclear yesterday whether the county supervisors, which voted unanimously last summer to donate $100,000 to the project, will invest more money in the museum. Other donors include the state, the Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative and the Prince William Industrial Development Authority.
Colgan, in a presentation to the board, called the attraction a hub in a "corridor of history" between the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum slated to open near Dulles International Airport in three years and the Marine Corps Heritage Center being built in Quantico.
Since its opening July 4, the museum has had 15,000 visitors, officials said. A $25,000 study underway by George Mason University is looking at potential attendance at a permanent museum and its economic impact.
The museum has drawn support from numerous veterans groups and from military collector Allan Cors, who has agreed to donate his extensive array of military vehicles, now stored in Nokesville.
The museum is on a short list of potential sites under consideration by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation for a statewide military attraction that could receive substantial funding from the General Assembly. A decision is expected in December. Other potential sites include Norfolk, Williamsburg, Danville, Camp Pickett, Camp Lee and Fort Belvoir, officials said.
As they wait for a decision, museum leaders said they're soliciting private donations and lobbying county, state and federal officials to raise money for their ambitious project.
"We're hitting as many pockets as we can," Colgan said.