Arsenal of Democracy Museum moving on to ‘next chapter’

By: Brian Louwers | C&G Newspapers | Published April 8, 2016

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — The Detroit Arsenal of Democracy Museum is on the move.

Two years after the nonprofit established its collection of historic vehicles, military artifacts, and recorded veteran histories in a space on Industrial Drive in St. Clair Shores, Museum Director John Lind and the leaser confirmed that they had reached a mutual financial agreement to forego the remaining four months of the museum’s lease. Under the terms of the agreement, the Detroit Arsenal of Democracy must vacate the property by May 8.

Lind said the museum, currently housed at 22960 W. Industrial Drive in St. Clair Shores, will close to the public after its regular hours conclude on April 16, while the search for a new location remained ongoing at press time. 

“Our present location was always a stepping stone. It was never to be our permanent home,” Lind said. “We felt that we had to take advantage of this opportunity to honor our veterans for the 70th anniversary of World War II, and we are currently looking for a warehouse, a historical building or other suitable space to become our permanent home.”

While the search for a new facility plays out, Lind said the museum’s Facebook page, website and online resources will remain active. He also said the organization’s presence at local events honoring veterans will be expanded.

“We’re still going to continue our tradition of hosting quality programs for the public. We’ll still honor our veterans, and we’re still going to participate in local events and parades,” Lind said. “This is the next chapter. This is not a quest. This is a lifelong ambition of ours, the entire group, to provide quality education and honor our veterans.”

Museum Historian James Bertolino said the museum’s location on Industrial Drive, while suitable for its programs since it opened in May 2014, was somewhat limited in both size and scope.

“We have a very eclectic collection with artifacts going back almost 100 years. The current building we are in doesn’t allow us to display nearly everything we would like,” Bertolino said. “A larger building, in a high-traffic area, will allow us to better tell the story of what Detroit did and currently does for our military.”

Bertolino said educating the public and preserving personal histories of local veterans, graciously shared by the veterans themselves or by family members, will remain at the center of the museum’s mission as the staff searches for a new facility.

“Closing the doors and not opening back up would mean closing the door on their stories. Relocation would mean being able to continue sharing them,” Bertolino said. “We would be able to have interactive displays and more artifacts that would better tell the story.

“We’ve been blessed to have a lot of people support our museum and cause. It is the help of donations that keeps our doors open. I am looking forward to the grand reopening,” Bertolino said.

Lind said the staff is currently working on a sponsorship proposal for individuals or groups interested in assisting the museum moving forward. He said he envisions transitioning from the current 8,000-square-foot building to a facility with between 10,000 and 20,000 square feet of space.

For more information about the museum, its pending move or its ongoing programs, visit www.detroitarsenalofdemocracy.org or call (586) 604-5393.

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