Preparing for posterity

With the much anticipated October 20 opening of Norwich University's Sullivan Museum and History Center, the Norwich community is banding together to record oral histories, prepare installations and offer items that could find a place in the University's new museum. Recently, General Gordon Sullivan, '59, visited the campus to contribute to the cause.

"This museum is a huge step for us," Sullivan said while looking at the gleaming copper roof of the museum's rotunda from the Kreitzberg Library. "Norwich has always had a small museum, but it has never been appropriate for a University of our stature in a way that we could use it to present ourselves to our cadets, our alumni and the greater world. Now, based on a wonderful gift from Trustee Pritzker, we are able to put up a building which is appropriate for a university such as ours."

During his visit, Sullivan was videotaped discussing artifacts from his collection that will be on display in the museum and recalling memories about his time on The Hill. Museum Director Karen Petersen said that while the footage will be used in the museum's upcoming Sullivan exhibit, much of the material was created to convey a message to visitors.

"The message that we hope visitors will take away is, 'I want to be a part of this story too, so that I can be an exemplary citizen of the world.' Or for alumni, 'I am a part of this story,'" Petersen said. "So we asked the general to speak to issues relating to the responsibilities of citizenship and also how his Norwich experiences helped shape his career as an Army officer, a civilian and a business person."

In the upcoming months and years, Petersen said the University will also be recording other members of the Norwich community for inclusion in the museum's collection. She said Norwich personnel are currently sifting through the school's artifacts and will be contacting alumni in the future in hopes of procuring more display items and recorded histories. In general, Petersen said, the University plans to utilize technology all throughout the exhibits by offering short films, audio technology and possibly interactive research stations that will enhance the museum experience for visitors.

Such enhancements, Sullivan said, are part of what will make the Sullivan Museum and History Center such a special and beneficial addition to the Northfield campus.

"We are creating a living museum," Sullivan said. "It's a museum that talks about our past, talks about our present, and shows the way to our future. And of course symbolically, having the museum attached to the Kreitzberg Library links the knowledge of the past with the knowledge of our contemporary world. And as a museum, it links the students to all of this in what I believe will be a very productive union."