- The Washington Times - Friday, August 11, 2000

The Freedom Museum, which chronicles the experience of the average, 20th-century American soldier, will be designated an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution at a ceremony in Manassas, Va., Friday.

That's a big coup for the museum, giving it access to some Smithsonian artifacts and a likely boost with fund raising.

The announcement will come Friday when the museum opened just over a year ago at the Manassas Regional Airport hosts its second Festival of Freedom Fly In, with more than 30 World War II, Korean War and Cold War-era aircraft.

"It gives us enormous credibility," said Chuck Colgan Jr., the museum founder and a combat photographer in Vietnam. "We're not just a bunch of washed-up veterans flailing about, we're a bunch of washed-up veterans that are deadly serious."

The museum tells the story of freedom from the perspective of the soldiers. Its founders say the history books tell the story of the politics and the course of battle, but they can't do justice to the soldiers, sailors, Marines and fliers who fought.

Their story is told in the permanent exhibit, which fills the small lobby of the Manassas airport, offering hundreds of photographs, wartime posters, paintings and memorabilia from America's 20th-century wars.

This weekend's Festival of Freedom has become the marquee event for the museum, featuring an American B-17 bomber, a German Heinkel HE-111 bomber, a Spitfire and more than two dozen other planes.

Allan D. Cors, president of the Virginia Museum of Military Vehicles, has lent the museum some of his 114 vehicles for permanent display, and has added some extra tanks and armored vehicles for this weekend.

Also Friday, a roundtable discussion "The Untold Story of Courage, Honor and Compassion" will be held with Sen. Charles S. Robb, Virginia Democrat and decorated veteran, and several former prisoners of war.

Winning affiliate status for the museum is a vote of confidence, Mr. Colgan said Thursday. It also allows the museum to sell Smithsonian items in a gift shop, and gets them coverage in Smithsonian magazine.

David Umansky, communications director for the Smithsonian, said the affiliate program extends the institution beyond the Mall and puts more of its 141 million objects on display.

There are more than 50 affiliates in 20 states. Mount Vernon, George Washington's home in Fairfax County, was also recently designated an affiliate.

"What it says is that they have shown us they can take and display Smithsonian objects to standards we set, which are the strongest in the nation," Mr. Umansky said.

Mr. Colgan said that's great for the future, but for now, he's very excited about getting Smithsonian expertise on how to design exhibits and display the museum's collection.

The museum is operating with a temporary lease in the airport lobby, but hopes to build a permanent museum somewhere nearby. Mr. Colgan said they're on track for fund raising, although no dates have been set on starting the project.

The museum is open to the public every day of the year, but this weekend's events run from 3 to 5 p.m. Friday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission to the museum is free of charge. To go onto the airfield to see the planes is $6 for adults and $4 for children 8 and under.

More information is available at www.freedommuseum.org.

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