Our four ground floor galleries, namely the Remembrance and Valour Gallery, and separate Air, Ground and Sea Operations galleries, continue to evolve.
- A recent addition to the Remembrance and Valour Gallery is a plinth which will be the centrepiece for remembering the contribution not just of Australia, but the other ‘Free World’ forces which supported the Republic of Vietnam. National flags for the RVN, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Thailand and the Philippines will be shown on the plinth, along with plaques giving some detail of the contribution in personnel and casualties suffered. The plinth should be completed by Vietnam Veterans’ Day 2014. An emotional artefact has also been recently installed – a childhood golliwog carried by a medic in Vietnam, who was subsequently lost to his mother when he died less than 10 years after returning from Vietnam.
- The Ground Operations Gallery has seen the addition of a touch screen display in the Australian Army Training Team exhibit, and several new digital picture frames including for the 1 RAR Group, 4 RAR, 5 RAR, Provost, 131 Divisional Locating Battery and 8th Field Ambulance. New interpretive panels for 1 RAR, 131 Div Loc Bty, and Provost are with the designers to finalise layout before printing and installing, thanks to donations from those associations. Concept drawings for a new, life sized tunnel diorama have been created and it is hoped to have this completed for the visit by the 1 RAR Group reunion in October 2014. Discussions are also underway to begin planning for another life sized diorama – this time to convert one side of the Huey to a full recreation of the Vampire landing pad in Vung Tau, showing a casevac arrival. This will be complemented by the new interpretive panel wall for 2nd and 8th Field Ambulance and display case showing a mannequin in full nurse’s uniform, another great donation to the museum recently. The nurse exhibit should be in place by mid-2014. Last, some work has begun for the development of a new exhibit area devoted to the Viet Cong /North Vietnamese Army – partly including the new tunnel diorama but also a new display case showing a life-size Viet Cong soldier.
- The Air Operations Gallery is rapidly taking shape. The two large display cases facing the helicopters were recently upgraded with UH-1H artworks hung, and new artefacts – including a 2.75inch rocket – and models installed. The walkway is now completely carpeted and new digital picture frames have been installed for 1 Operational Support Unit and 79 Squadron Ubon, plus shortly for 9 Squadron as well. Content development for a number of interpretive panels is underway especially for 9 Squadron and an Air Operations Honour Roll. ‘Snow’s Corner’, an exhibit dedicated to the RAAF’s John (Snow) Coughlan (Conspicuous Gallantry Medal, Flying), is being installed. In addition preparation has begun for a new glass wall installation alongside the Sioux helicopter which will allow viewing of a remarkable six-panel segment of the massive relief map of Phuoc Tuy province used to brief service chiefs and Government in Canberra during the war. The relief map segment is now under the tail of the Sioux. Content development is also underway, thanks to Brian Dirou, of four interpretive panels describing the history of our Huey and its Bushranger configuration.
- The Sea Operations Gallery – at least that segment under the rear stair mezzanine access, is almost complete. A recent surge of RAN artefact and financial donations including from the Jervis Bay Vietnam Veterans, individuals such as Jim Britz, the Frankston Naval Club/ Naval Association and the HMAS Sydney association has provided a magnificent glass case display as well as a new, carpeted and well-lit walk through Gallery. The large display case has a RAN Helicopter Flight Vietnam pilot representing Jim Buchanan, DFC, at the controls of his Huey as well as a number of other artefacts with great stories attached. The Clearance Divers Association also donated a number of great photos for its bay. In July, with the reorganisation of the workshop area around the Wessex helicopter, work can begin on Phase II of the Sea Operations Gallery.
On the Mezzanine level, some preparatory work has begun to remove old or damaged display items in preparation for a refreshed Republic of Vietnam story over three bays, along with planned exhibits for US, Korea, Philippines and Thailand participation in the war. There will be new bay development for exhibits for the USA story, the philanthropic organisations and the peace movement. Mezzanine development will accelerate in the second half of 2014.