Private military museum finds new quarters and hopes to reopen July 4th
Now it’s a mess.
By July Fourth, George Robinson Jr. hopes to get it looking like a pigsty, or at least part of it.
The main room of the future Darmstadt military history museum is littered with broken telephone equipment, stained cardboard boxes and other assorted refuse from another decade.
For years the space, a former workshop for Stars and Stripes, has been vacant except for this junk.
But in his spare time, Robinson, who works for Darmstadt’s Child and Youth Services, is transforming the space from a haven for old forgotten junk into a home for old unforgotten military relics.
The centerpiece of the exhibit will, if all goes right, be a room with dioramas depicting scenes from different eras, including the courtyard of a 1945 German farmhouse with a stuffed rooster that crows and a ceramic pig.
Most of the material for the museum belongs to one man: Robinson.
A lot of people collect military paraphernalia. Some collect old uniforms or patches or documents or equipment or photographs or furniture or — you get the picture. Robinson collects all that.
From 2001 until October, Robinson and about two dozen of his Rhein Neckar Military Historical Society buddies ran a museum at Babenhausen Kaserne in Babenhausen, Germany. There seven exhibit rooms displayed thousands of articles.
His garage is packed with so much more stuff that “we could probably fill it two to three more times,” he said.
And he wants to share it all with us. Or, rather, keep sharing it with us.
When Babenhausen closed, the exhibit — a collection of military artifacts going back more than a century — was left without an audience.
Late last year Robinson got permission to move the collection to an unused space next to Stripes’ European headquarters in Griesheim.
The space was, more or less, given to them, he said.
“The least we can do is give that back.”
The memorabilia, including the anti-aircraft artillery piece, belong to society members, not the militaries of the U.S. or Germany.
Collecting, preserving and displaying these scraps of history is not just a hobby for the society. Robinson’s father fought in World War II. His wife’s father and his two brothers did as well, but on the other side — the losing side.
“He’s the one who really got me going,” Robinson said of his father-in-law.
Both sides of the second great war are represented here, as is the first great war and every other major U.S. conflict since.
“Our mission is to try and preserve the military history of the United States and Germany, as it relates to both countries,” the society’s Web site (http://vetsmemorialmuseum.tripod.com/index.html) states. “In this endeavor we will do our utmost to support the [U.S. Army Garrison] Darmstadt and its military community. We will further endeavor to honor the veterans of both nations, past, present and future.”
Their motto, Robinson said, is “Preserve history for history.” They’ve done that by offering their personal collections and their time to anyone interested.
And though the museum does have some out-of-pocket expenses, “we don’t charge people to come in here,” Robinson said. Or they won’t, anyway, when — or if — they reopen in July.