Hill Country war museum makes history with prestigious designation

Hill Country war museum makes history with prestigious designation

Admiral Nimitz National Museum of the Pacific War
Fredericksburg's National Museum of the Pacific War has been deemed a Smithsonian Affiliate. Photo courtesy of National Museum of the Pacific War

A treasured Fredericksburg history museum has received a distinguished designation that places it among the most elite museums in the country.

The National Museum of the Pacific War, the only institution in the continental U.S. exclusively dedicated to telling the story of World War II in the Pacific, has been selected by the world’s largest museum and research institution as a Smithsonian Affiliate.

The goal of the Smithsonian Affiliate program is to develop long-term partnerships with other museums and educational organizations in the hopes of making the Smithsonian’s vast collections and resources widely available.

The designation opens a world of partnership opportunities for the National Museum of the Pacific War, including collaboration with the Smithsonian on local public programs and workshops. The alliance will also enable the NMPW to provide professional development opportunities and youth programs for Central Texans, and allow the Fredericksburg museum — a Texas Historical Commission property managed by the nonprofit Admiral Nimitz Foundation — to host traveling Smithsonian exhibitions, borrow artifacts from the education hub, and co-host public lectures featuring Smithsonian scholars.

The 54-year-old, 55,000-square-foot NMPW, which encompasses six acres in downtown Fredericksburg and hosts more than 100,000 visitors annually, will also take part in the Smithsonian Affiliate Membership Program, entitling museum patrons to a two-in-one membership to the local museum and the Smithsonian.

“Being aligned with the Smithsonian name is a prestigious honor and one we’ve worked hard to earn over the years,” says NMPW museum director Rorie Cartier. “We are looking forward to the wide range of enrichment the Smithsonian Affiliations program will bring to the museum experience, including new programming that we’ll offer to our members and guests.”

In order to become a Smithsonian Affiliate, museums, nonprofits, and public agencies associated with state or local government must submit an extensive proposal to the organization, which reviews the info and potentially sends reps out for a site visit prior to acceptance into the program. Smithsonian Affiliates are also required to pay an annual fee of $3,000. 

The designation places the National Museum of the Pacific War in the top 1 percent of museums nationwide, with the network of Smithsonian Affiliates accounting for about 200 institutions in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Panama.

Several Texas institutions and organizations also hold the status of Smithsonian Affiliate, including some obvious choices like Space Center Houston, The Witte Museum in San Antonio, and the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas. Other Smithsonian Affiliates in Texas include the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, the Irving Arts Center, the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, and Odessa’s Ellen Noël Art Museum. 

The only Austin-based Smithsonian Affiliate is the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department, which manages the Dougherty Arts Center, the Elisabet Ney Museum, the Asian American Resource Center, the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, the George Washington Carver Museum & Cultural Center, and the O. Henry Museum.