Border Line – A look at what’s happening over the state line

This article was originally published on August 8, 2007

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Museums come in all sizes and shapes. From the modernist Tang Teaching Museum in Saratoga Springs to the hand-restored Log Village Grist Mill and Museum in East Hartford, New York.

Just across the border in southern Vermont is the regions newest museum, The Museum of Black WWII History. Located in an old schoolhouse in Pownal, Vermont, this museum is a true labor of love. It was opened to the public one year ago by Bruce Bird in the former Oak Hill Schoolhouse. Mr. Bird was able to purchase the building for one dollar with the assistance of Vermont Representative Bill Botzow, with the provision that it be used as a museum. After fixing the roof and other improvements, he estimates that he’s spent around $40,000 to date on the building.

Prior to retiring, Mr Bird spent two years as curator of the Vermont Militia Museum in Colchester, exhibits curator at the Vermont Veterans Home in Bennington. His museum career began with an internship at the Navy Museum in Washington, DC.

An avid collector of military equipment for over fifty years, Bird said that until ten years ago he had no idea of the extent of the military contributions made by this countries minorities. When he realized that our country lacked a museum devoted to their contribution, he decided to start one himself.

This modest two-room museum has display cases, which include historical photographs and extensive notes, about the most illustrious all-black units, such as the Tuskegee Airmen and the 761st Tank Battalion, also known as the Black Panthers, which served with distinction during the Battle of the Bulge. Plan on spending about an hour touring the museum.

On August 4th, the Museum will host Ray Elliott, a WWII veteran and now retired chemist whose laboratory monitored worldwide radiation fallout. Mr. Elliot will be speaking about growing up as a young black man in the 1940’s and 1950’s as well as what life was like in the segregated Army. Mr. Elliot will be speaking at 2:00 pm.

The Museum of Black WWII History is located at 179 Oak Hill Road in Pownal, Vermont. It is nine miles south of Bennington, just off of Route 7. Museum hours are Thursday to Monday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Adult admission is $5.00.

More information can be found at http://www.blackww2museum.org/ or by calling 802-823-5519.

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