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"Telling the Army Story . . . one Soldier at a time." ©
The United States Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC), is an internationally recognized research center, museum, and educational campus located in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. USAHEC preserves the memories of Soldiers, honors their service, and educates an international audience. Its staff of historians, archivists, librarians, curators, conservators, and technicians make available relevant studies, exhibits, and presentations that describe and highlight the history of our Nation’s Army and its Soldiers.
“Telling the Army story . . . one Soldier at a time”© is the focus of the Center’s energy. Since the mid-1960s, historians, academic researchers, and family historians from across the globe have come to the Center, and its predecessor organization, the U.S. Army Military History Institute, to access its specialized research library, its collection of Soldier papers, and its photo archives. Since 2005, the general public, students, and veterans have gained extra insights as USAHEC developed indoor and outdoor exhibits to communicate the challenges and rewards of service in our Army. Today these exhibits can be found on the Army Heritage Trail, in the Soldier Experience Gallery, and in Ridgway Hall.
Access to the archives and to the exhibit areas is free and open to the public. USAHEC is a component of the U.S. Army War College, and the Department of the Army funds its operations and programs.
USAHEC currently includes four of five planned components:
Future campus facilities include:
The USAHEC collection has been described by Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Atkinson as a “national treasure.” Today, the collection includes over 15 million manuscript pages, 35,000 veteran surveys, 327,000 books, and over 1.7 million photographs, including more than 100,000 Civil War images. The library collection includes the most comprehensive collection of army regulations and manuals in the country. The artifact collection includes more than 50,000 items.
The Army Heritage Center Foundation
USAHEC’s supporting foundation, the Military Heritage Foundation, doing business as the Army Heritage Center Foundation, is a IRS approved 501(c)(3) non-profit incorporated in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Foundation receives no support from the federal government. Federal law allows the Foundation to work with the U.S. Army to support the development and operation of USAHEC and to manage business activities within the Center.
The Foundation’s primary focus today is to obtain funds to support construction of Phase Two of the Visitor and Education Center and the Army Heritage Center and support programs that enhance the visitor experience.
History and Development of the Campus
The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center grew in stages over 50 years. Formed in 1967 as the Military History Research Collection, a branch of the U.S. Army War College Library, the Institute was established to serve as a specialized library and as the primary repository for unofficial Army historical materials – Soldiers’ letters, diaries, photos, and art. (Official U.S. Army records and other materials belong to the National Archives.) Renamed the U.S. Army Military History Institute in 1977, for most of its existence, the Institute was housed in Upton Hall on Carlisle Barracks. Built in 1941 as an academic building for the Medical Field Service School, Upton Hall was adequate as a library but ill-suited for the size and preservation needs of a major archive.
Beginning in the early 1980s, the leadership began an effort to build a dedicated archival facility, and in 1999, the Army Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera began the process that led to the development of the U. S. Army Heritage and Education Center. In May 1999, he authorized the development of an Army museum at Carlisle. His successor, Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White, formally established USAHEC and approved the construction of a new facility, the present-day Ridgway Hall. In his letter announcing USAHEC, he stated: "We will relocate its [the institute's] documents and holdings—the unofficial history of the United States Army—into a newly built state-of-the art archive, give that facility responsibility for administering historical documents and photographs Army wide, and associate it with an educational facility and a museum."
Since 1999, the development of USAHEC has been a public private partnership. Cumberland County, Pennsylvania donated the 56 acres that today serves as the Center’s campus. Army Construction funds, grants from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and donations from corporations, foundations, and individuals have all supported the development of the Center.
Ridgway Hall, a federally funded construction project, opened in September 2004 as a research facility that is open to the public. The facility provides outstanding public research areas and environmentally controlled storage for the USAHEC paper and audiovisual collections.
The Conservation Center, another federally funded facility, opened in 2012 with state of the art laboratories and artifact storage to support USAHEC’s conservators and curators’ preservation efforts. The facility is not open to the public.
Phase One of the Visitor and Education Center (VEC) is a facility that the Army Heritage Center Foundation opened to the public in 2011. Grants from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and numerous donations from foundations, corporations, and individuals supported the construction of the facility. The VEC includes a 7,000 square feet exhibit and interpretive gallery, two multipurpose rooms, a cafe, museum shop, and other facilities for hosting large groups and providing educational programming.
The Army Heritage Trail is a one-mile (1.6 km) walking path of outdoor exhibits and markers on various eras in U.S. Army history. Notable exhibits include a replica American Revolutionary War redoubt from the 1781 Siege of Yorktown, cabins built to resemble those of French and Indian War and American Civil War encampments, several replica camp buildings from World War II, a Vietnam Firebase, and a section of trenches from World War I, with shell hole-marked no-man's land, and a corresponding German pillbox. The trail is open to the public year-round during daylight hours. The trail hosts a few large living history events during the year. Re-enactors also spend time on the trail on most summer weekends.
Along with further expansion of the Army Heritage Trail, the U. S. Army Heritage and Education Center plans two additional buildings for the near future. They include Phase Two of the Visitor and Education Center and the Army Heritage Center. Both projects will require non-federal and private funds to support construction.
For more information about the Center or to access the Center’s research finding aides visit www.usahec.org.