In the 19 years since its star-spangled opening, the National World War II Museum has become one of New Orleans’ premier tourist attractions, drawing more than 7.5 million visitors.
But its latest addition, a $25 million building to be dedicated Thursday, was erected with an eye toward people who may never set foot on the Warehouse District campus.
The Hall of Democracy, which will serve as a hub for the museum’s distance learning programs, is hardly off-limits to tourists. Its ground floor has a gift shop and a 3,764-square-foot area for temporary exhibits. Occupying that space until Jan. 5 is “Operation Finale: The Capture & Trial of Adolf Eichmann,” which chronicles the process that tracked down the Holocaust mastermind and brought him to justice.
But the other two floors of the three-story building are given over to studios for making videos and podcasts, a library, offices, and a room filled with shelf upon shelf of blinking computer gear.
“It is pretty cool,” Gemma Birnbaum said. As the museum’s associate vice president for its Media and Education Center, she presides over a high-tech realm dedicated to producing videos, documentaries, podcasts and other programs for colleges, high schools and even juvenile-detention centers.
The museum’s expanded capacity can make these programs “more visually compelling,” said Stephen J. Watson, its president and CEO. “It can give students from other parts of the country the immersive experience that comes close to what you see in the galleries.”
Voorsanger Mathes LLC was the lead architect for this building and the rest of the museum complex. Project contractors for the Hall of Democracy were Boh Bros. Construction and Roy Anderson Corp.
Even though the Hall of Democracy is new, the museum’s distance education programs are not. Birnbaum said they were introduced shortly after Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005.
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