Own Service Museum: Hulking over the Interstate

Photo by Joe Freeman
Photo by Joe Freeman

Draped over Interstate 95 like Harry Potters’ wand, is the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Located in the obscure hamlet of Triangle, Va., and yards for Marine Corps Base Quantico’s main gate, this massive hulk rises from the asphalt causing drivers to point and wonder.

It was on a recent trip north through the I-95 corridor I reached my breaking point with this charlatan. The shadows cast at dusk coupled with the structure’s night lighting rendered the structure grotesque. It was sad. This modern attempt to convey the meaning of the flag raising looked more like the skeletal remains of a dinosaur begging to be released from its position above so many gawking passers-by.

I am aware most will disagree with me.

The museum would have looked bad enough set back farther from the interstate, but as it is, its large pole seems to search for a flag or large fish to dangle above the thousands who drive past each day. The Marine Corps does some things very well, but, one should know one’s limitations. This building was one of them, despite an otherwise thriving public-private partnership.

The Marine Corps War Memorial, Arlington, Va. Was it skill? Was it luck that sculptor Felix de Weldon captured Joe Rosenthal’s photo of the flag raising on Iwo Jima. Posed or otherwise, it was a miracle Rosenthal got the shot off that he did. It seems the luck stopped with de Weldon. While this building works to “evoke the image of the Iwo Jima Flag Raiser” it falls far short.

To move the architectural faux pas back off the interstate and get the trees to grow (a lot) would help, but this misguided, modern approach will continue to live its days in Nowheresville, Virginia. I have thought about the branding angle of using this design. It makes sense. But it is outclassed by predecessors and makes a mockery of an image in history that has recruited a couple of Marines and won a few votes on the Hill.

The Marine Corps is stuck with its museum, and we understand the center is wildly popular. I visited once for an event and said I would never return – I am sure museum officials lie awake at night worried about my comings and goings.

Take a drive north on I-95 in the early evening hours. If you have already, what are your thoughts now that the beast has been in place for four years?

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