Celebrating the Groundbreaking of the Sullivan Museum and History Center
On May 15, just hours after the Class of 2005 celebrated their graduation from Norwich, nearly 100 people gathered behind Kreitzberg Library for a different celebration. With glasses of champagne in hand and the melody of “Norwich Forever” playing in the background, General Gordon Sullivan ’59, James Pritzker and President Richard Schneider broke ground on the site of the Sullivan Museum and History Center.
Named for Board of Trustee Chairman General Gordon R. Sullivan ’59, the museum will serve a critical role in the Norwich landscape, acting as the entry into Norwich University for the public and the greater Norwich community. With initial funding provided by Trustee James Pritzker, the museum promises to be a lively and compelling center for the telling of the Norwich story.
“The greatest intangible asset of the University is its history and traditions,” noted Pritzker. “It is essential to have a place where the physical artifacts of that history can be properly stored, cataloged and displayed.”
The new museum will be a 16,959 sq. ft. building with designated areas for permanent and rotating displays, visible storage, exhibit preparation, collection conservation, reference and learning.
“Our current accommodations simply do not provide adequate room to showcase the rich and deep history of Norwich,” said Museum Director Krista Ainsworth, referring to the basement of White Chapel. “The new museum, once opened, will completely change the way we preserve and display the artifacts we have collected.”
The Sullivan Museum and History Center is designed to be a welcoming and active space. With construction underway, the museum will be a fully modern facility with carefully regulated lighting, heating and humidity control designed to protect the integrity of the Norwich collection. As Pritzker noted during the groundbreaking, that collection is already robust and includes rare treasurers such as an American flag dating from the 1790s and cadet uniforms that date from Norwich’s founding.
President Schneider noted that he has broken ground on three buildings during his presidency, but he highlighted the special nature of this groundbreaking.
“Norwich University has grown so much in the past decade. I hear from many alumni that the campus does not look the same to them. This groundbreaking is extraordinary, though, because in it we are honoring our past. We are constructing a tangible home for our history, a place where students and alumni can come and immerse themselves in the heritage of this great institution.”
General Sullivan echoed this sentiment and pointed out the larger role that the museum will play in guiding Norwich towards the future.
“This place we symbolically start building today is the first important step on our journey to 2019, where we will start our third century of service to our nation.”
A cornerstone of the Norwich Forever campaign and NU2019, the Sullivan Museum and History Center, “is the lead building in our plans to remake not only the physical face of Norwich but the atmosphere of learning, living, playing and development,” Sullivan said.
Personally touched by the gesture to name the museum in his honor, General Sullivan thanked Trustee Pritzker for his generosity and vision, and noted the impact the museum would have on the Norwich landscape.
“Our students will finally be able to appreciate the richness of the contributions of their predecessors, but, more importantly, they can reflect upon their personal life’s journey.”
The groundbreaking event capped off a successful Commencement Weekend on the Norwich campus in which over 300 students graduated and the Board of Trustees gathered for their annual spring meeting. Those attending the groundbreaking were treated to a special rendition of “Norwich Forever” arranged by Bill Speare and played on an 1890 Estey pump organ by Shirley Melville. Guests also received authentic museum boxes containing artifacts representative of Norwich’s history. These relics included a cadet uniform button, mini cannon, Norwich hockey emblem and historic postcards. After opening the boxes, President Schneider urged everyone to come back to Norwich for the official opening of the museum.
“When we open this wonderful museum in 2006, come back and bring these museum boxes with you, filled with your own Norwich memories and artifacts.”
The Sullivan Museum and History Center is scheduled to open at Homecoming 2006.