Veterans Museum undergoes renovations, new exhibits

By | February 7, 2019 8:21 am

By Rachel Auberger

The Veterans Museum of White County is now housed in one room of the American Legion Building located at 5 Liberty Square and has quickly outgrown the space since the addition of new exhibits.

The museum will be making the short move across the hall, but, with some creative space management and rearranging of the services and offices in the building, they will be able to claim three rooms for their expansion.

Sandy Witt, museum curator, urges everyone to come and explore the museum when it reopens in early March.

“The museum offers a rich history of uniforms, military items, documents, and photographs from the past to present day,” said Witt.

The museum houses exhibits from World War I to present day, including one of the most popular, the Joseph Betterton Exhibit.

The Betterton Exhibit’s main pride is a camera used by Joseph Betterton, a naval photographer. Betterton, a native of White County, was serving as photographer at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked, on Dec. 7. 1941. The camera on display was used to capture pictures of the initial attack. Betterton’s pictures are now on display in the national Smithsonian museums.

Among new exhibits that will be on display when the museum reopens is the Dr. Charles Mitchell Exhibit. This new exhibit will have items from Dr. Mitchell’s time served in Germany during World War II. There will be flags, a hood ornament, and uniforms with medals.

When talking about the new exhibit, Witt hinted at some surprises that, “might include some Nazi memorabilia” but also said that she didn’t “want to give all the surprises away. People will need to make a trip in to see all that we have.”

Before the exhibits can be moved to the new rooms, which Witt is proud to say are all connecting so that patrons can walk through time as they move from one war to another room by room, the rooms must finish being renovated.

Renovations are well underway, with walls getting a fresh coat of paint and floors getting new carpeting. In addition, windows will need to be tinted and new LED lighting is being installed.

“The lighting and the tinting are important,” Witt said. “The proper lighting will help preserve the fragile items in the exhibits for years to come.”

The $1,500 renovation project has been funded by private donation as well as grants from Middle Tennessee Natural Gas and Volunteer Electric Company. In addition, the museum has an ongoing fundraising campaign in which they sell museum decals, with the proceeds going directly to the management of the exhibits.

Witt and Donna Fare, a Veterans Museum board member, hope the community will come visit once the renovations are completed. While the museum sees a lot of traffic when events are being held on the square in Sparta, they hope the American Legion building being on the National Register of Historic Places will bring more traffic through the halls.

“The museum is a way for veterans to help tell their stories to future generations – a way to pass on the history and honor the memories of those who have served our country,” said Fare.

If anyone has any items to donate or lend to the museum for an exhibit, particularly items from the Korean and Vietnam wars, contact museum curator Sandy Witt at (931) 836-3595.

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