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Iowa museum that commemorates blacks in military may close

A display shows the history of Fort Des Moines as a black officer training camp and women's auxiliary training center in Des Moines, Iowa on Monday, Nov. 6, 2017 inside the Fort Des Moines Museum and Education Center.

RODNEY WHITE/THE DES MOINES REGISTER VIA AP

By ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: November 9, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa — A museum that commemorates the location where the U.S. Army first trained black officers and women in Des Moines is financially struggling and could close if it doesn't find additional support.

The three volunteers at the Fort Des Moines Museum and Education Center open the facility to the public only one day a week or through appointments, The Des Moines Register reported .

The museum has received few monetary donations and some volunteers have given their own money to help pay the bills, said Matthew Harvey, the president of the museum's board of directors.

"We've had thousands of visitors in the last four years, but we haven't had much support," Harvey said. "In January, we'll have to declare the museum closed to the public."

Volunteer staff members have pitched it to buy replacement American and Iowan flags, paint and toiletries to keep the museum's bathrooms stocked.

"We don't mind that temporarily, but we can't do that for the rest of our lives," said Lawrence Williamson, one of the museum's volunteers.

The museum's recent IRS tax filings show that the museum received $42,000 to $83,000 in donations annually from 2012 to 2014 and received almost $255,000 in 2015.

Harvey said the museum board has been using the funds to pay off debts.

The museum opened in 2004 after $20 million was used to renovate a former bachelor's barracks and add displays explaining the site's historical significance.

The 18,000-square-foot museum includes dozens of uniforms, photos, news clippings, letters and other war-era items.

The fort was the site of the Army's first black officer's training class in 1917. It was the first induction and training center for the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps 25 years later.

Military uniforms are stored in a closet in the basement of the Fort Des Moines Museum and Education Center because there is no room for display in Des Moines, Iowa
RODNEY WHITE/THE DES MOINES REGISTER VIA AP

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