MOH museum reaches out

June 30, 2018

MOH museum reaches out, Opinion, The Post and Courier

Any doubts about the sincerity of National Medal of Honor Museum officials to engage Mount Pleasant officials and residents in a redesign effort were put to rest Wednesday at a public outreach meeting aboard the Yorktown aimed at inspiring alternative concepts for architect Moshe Safdie. It was a promising start to establishing a dialogue and hopefully a second chance at building an iconic symbol honoring America’s military heroes.

Mr. Safdie, one of the world’s top architects, is gestating new designs. Museum foundation CEO Joe Daniels is rebuilding relationships, and new foundation board chairman Peter Stent, a former West Coast venture capitalist and now a Nevada horse rancher, is herding donors.

And at the first of at least three meetings, consultant David McNair started picking the brains of about 100 people who showed up. The group included at least one member of the Mount Pleasant Planning Commission, which earlier rejected Mr. Safdie’s bold pentagonal design as too tall for the 8-acre waterfront site between the aircraft carrier and the Ravenel Bridge.

“Let’s forget the past and look to the future,” Ray Chandler, head of the Patriots Point Development Authority, told the audience as the meeting got underway.

Mr. Safdie gave a primer on how he thinks about designs, illustrated with examples of his extraordinary work ranging from the Holocaust museum, Vad Yashem, in Jerusalem, to the Khalsa Heritage Center in Punjab, India.

Soon, everyone in the room had out their smartphones, texting responses to questions such as, “When you picture the National Medal of Honor Museum, what do you hope it represents?” and “When thinking about design what ideas or thoughts would you like to see taken into consideration?”

Responses were instantly tabulated and projected onto a screen. There were 10 questions, then an open question-and-answer period. Medal of Honor recipient Col. Don “Doc” Ballard, who heads the character development program, was there to provide some of the answers.

So far, so good.

The museum foundation and its partners have come a long way since last year, when the former CEO departed unexpectedly and half of the board resigned along with Mount Pleasant Medal of Honor recipient Maj. Gen. James E. Livingston.

The next meeting is July 26 at Alhambra Hall, 131 Middle St., in Mount Pleasant. Mr. Safdie expects to have some new concepts to show in about six weeks, and Mr. McNair said the group was considering more than three meetings if needed and possibly making the survey available to a wider audience via social media.

Mr. Daniels emphasized that there’s “no more important time in our 241-year history to find things that bring us together as Americans.” He also acknowledged that, even though the museum will be a national one, the foundation needs local support to make it a reality.

Clearly, the principals behind the project — one that promises to breathe new life into Patriots Point — are reaching out to Mount Pleasant officials and residents in earnest. And the town should reciprocate by working with the museum planners to settle on a design. Second chances at once-in-a-lifetime projects don’t come often.

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