The Veterans Heritage Learning Center in Boscawen, including 12 footlockers that will be filled with artifacts from different military eras and service branches. Courtesy photo.
Through interactive displays, hands-on artifacts and companion curricula, the new Veterans Heritage Learning Center will educate the state’s young people about the role of veterans. Located within the NH Veterans Cemetery on Daniel Webster Highway in Boscawen, the 1,200-square-foot learning center is housed in an addition to the cemetery administration building and is being outfitted with multiple exhibit kiosks.
The center's exterior. Courtesy photo.
The NH Veterans Cemetery Association (NHVCA) raised the funds to build the wing, then donated it to the state. Dave Kenney, board member and marketing and outreach chair for the NHVCA, says the opening of the center, on Nov. 11, coincided with the 100th anniversary of Veteran’s Day. Kenney says that, while not all of the interactives are ready to go, all of the static exhibits are up and visitors will get a feel for what is to come.
“New Hampshire Veterans Serve [a digital map table] is one of the most interactive exhibits,” Kenney says, adding that exhibit will be introduced in 2019. “It will show where people were deployed and even identify New Hampshire-specific units during various conflicts,” he says. “Students who want to learn about 5th New Hampshire Volunteers in Gettysburg, for example, can see where they participated, what they did and what their movements were.”
A Remembrance Station will play an ongoing role in the stories the center will tell. Visitors can scan letters, photos, and medals and share stories about parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, all of which will become a part of a large database. “We have so many veterans who have already passed, and their families have the medals, records and stories that should be captured,” Kenney says.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the center. Courtesy photo.
While they are not looking to build a large collection, the center is accepting various artifacts to use in the 12 footlockers from different eras and various branches of the service. When students are learning a particular period in history, they can open a certain footlocker to learn more.
The footlockers double as theater seating, and teachers can project a lesson on-screen. Kenney says they hope to build a significant library of videos, especially of interviews with veterans. “We are hoping the teachers will make it a destination for their history and social studies classes. They can take the Memorial Walk and then use the learning center for a lesson. We want the students to come here and learn more about these topics so that they will want to learn more elsewhere.”
Fellow board member Mike Horne says the center is now the third educational aspect to the NH Veterans Cemetery. The first is the Memorial Walkway, a place where individuals and organizations make a donation for a brick or stone to be laid in honor of someone; the second is the 20 Points of NH Military History, where stone markers recall significant military events in state history.
The center covers the state’s military history from the militia days to the Middle East. “For the Revolutionary War, it all started in the upstairs and back rooms of taverns where people risked not only their lives but their fortunes,” Horne says. “The center will prevent that history from getting lost.” For more information, visit nhvca.org/veterans-heritage-learning-center.