Story by Aaron Kandell
Photo by Matt Mallams
This December 7 marks seventy years since the “date which will live in infamy,” and at Pearl Harbor oil still rises from the wreck of the USS Arizona, the “black tears” recalling the lives of the men entombed below the memorial’s white arch.
This December 7 also marks the 30th anniversary of the creation of the USS Arizona Memorial Museum & Visitor Center. To commemorate the occasion, the National Park Service is unveiling a $58 million dollar renovation, which includes three new museum galleries spread over seventeen acres.
It’s been long needed. Eileen Martinez, chief of interpretation for the memorial, says the old center was “quite literally sinking into the ground.” Along with the structural upgrades, the center—which anticipates more than 1.5 million visitors a year—has added a wealth of new exhibits and material. Among the new features are state-of-the-art exhibits like “Attack and Aftermath,” an immersive multimedia presentation projected across three screens. For those looking to dive more deeply, the Education and Research Center houses a massive library of photos, videos, documents and recordings of oral histories, all available to the general public.
There are equally impressive eco-friendly upgrades to the facility itself, which has already won a LEED green building award. Solar panels now power most of the center’s exhibits, including the fully restored movie theater, while the new “open campus” design offers more space to relax and take in unobstructed views of the harbor.
But perhaps the biggest update is to the Pearl Harbor narrative itself. “In the past the focus was mainly military,” Martinez explains. “But now the full tapestry of the people who lived this story can be seen.” Individual kiosks situated among the galleries activate the voices of survivors, from nurses to civilians … even the Japanese aviators who flew that day.
“Keeping history alive is always a challenge,” Martinez says. The renovations create a more relevant and accessible memorial, one that “reflects the dignity of the story.”