Groundbreaking on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Education Center occurred today. This massive, 35,000-sq.-ft. museum will be built right next to the Lincoln Memorial.
It's the wrong idea. Dead wrong.
Is every monument to have a mini-museum next to it now? Why not a WWII museum right next to the World War II National Memorial? Why not a Korean War Museum right next to the Korean War Veterans' Memorial? An FDR museum right next to the FDR Memorial? Hey, we need a Washington Museum built around the Washington Monument, and there's all that empty space right behind the Lincoln Memorial for a fine Abraham Lincoln Museum.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Education Center says it is not a museum, it's an "education center" designed to 1) Bring the Vietnam War alive to those who never lived through it; 2) Be a place to connect names to faces; 3) Be a place where vets can heal.
These are specious rationales. None of them are unique to the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial, and none prevent a memorial from being built next to other memorials and monuments. So why is one being built here? The first rationale is specious, because if people didn't live through WWI or WWII or the FDR years or Lincoln's assassination, why not build museums next to those memorials, too? The second rationale is a slap in the face to the Wall: It is an accusation that mere names on a black granite wall are "not enough" (a criticism hurled at Maya Lin's fantastic memorial since its inception), and it denies the power of the Wall to heal and elicit memory. The third rationale is yet another dig at the Wall, as well as a time-bound rationale. Once there are no more Vietnam War vets, does this meam the "education center" has lost its purpose and should be torn down?? Why build something "just"for Vietnam War vets? You mean this isn't a place for all American people??
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Education Center is a terrible mistake which will turn into a white elephant scarring the Lincoln Memorial grounds and opening the floodgates to peculiar, unnecessary, and ill-conceived projects everywhere.