This post is a follow-up to a post dated July 16, 2016.
The newly-renovated Visitors Center at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in Romagne-sous-Montfaucon opened up on Veterans Day 2016 and the webmaster had the chance to visit it during his recent visit.
As described in the July post, the first floor was being divided into three main interpretive rooms: A 1920s-style entrance room, a campaign gallery and a commemorative gallery. The entrance room was designed to look as it was in the 1920s when the cemetery was built. The campaign gallery was designed to outline the offensive and the United States’ participation. It would also include a battlefield experience film. The commemorative gallery would reflect on how America remembers its dead, the role of the ABMC, and who is buried in the cemetery.
The webmaster came away from his visit somewhat underwhelmed; but this is not because of lack of effort on the part of the ABMC. It is primarily because there is not adequate space to tell the stories of U.S. participation in the war and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive as well as the story of the commemoration of U.S. war dead. A secondary reason is the decision to design the visitor center to appeal to the general public, not the hard-core historian. As a result, the webmaster found the information boards and exhibits lacking the details that he hoped he would see. This is especially true in the campaign gallery, as shown in a selected signboard below:
The webmaster found the signboards in the commemoration gallery a bit more informative; but perhaps this is just because he had less knowledge of that piece of history. For example, signboards talked about the role of African-American troops played in locating and re-burying the bodies after the war.
Hopefully, the displays will whet the appetite of the casual visitor to learn more about U.S. participation in the Great War and in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. For the serious history student, your time is probably better spent talking with the cemetery staff (if you get a chance), visiting the graves, or visiting other parts of the battlefield; especially if your time in the region is limited.