Museums let soldiers, families in for free

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Military families are used to calling unfamiliar places home.

Thanks to the Blue Star Mu­seums Initiative, those families are able to learn the history of their new homes free of charge.

The program, a joint venture with the Department of Defense, the National Endowment for the Arts and Blue Star Families, celebrates its fourth year of operation this summer.

Launched during the summer of 2010, Blue Star Museums aims to provide active-duty military personnel with free access to museums across the country. Anyone with an active military identification card can bring up to five family members, according to the arts endowment’s Web site.

Victoria Hutter, the assistant director of public affairs at the arts endowment, said the program is just one way for communities to give back to the military.

“It’s an opportunity for the art community to show their appreciation for (the military’s) courage and sacrifice,” she said.

Hutter said more than 2,000 museums across the nation, and in Puerto Rico and American Samoa, took that opportunity this year. The program started May 27 and will run to Sept. 2.

“It’s become a very popular program,” Hutter said. “We have museums and families calling us all the time to voice their appreciation.”

Two Augusta museums, the Morris Museum of Art and the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History, are taking part.

Nicole McLeod, the director of marketing and public relations at the Morris, said the museum has participated since the program’s inception.

“It’s a no-brainer,” she said. “It’s something we can do to give back to all of the soldiers because they are constantly looking for things to do. They have lived in other parts of the world. They’re used to coming to museums.”

McLeod said the museum doesn’t track how many military and Department of Defense families take advantage of the program, but mothers with husbands deployed overseas frequent the Morris the most.

In Thomson, Thomas E. Watson’s Hickory Hill home has signed on for the 2013 program, along with the Rob­ert Toombs House His­tor­ic Site in Washington, Ga.

McLeod said her advice to the military families is simple: relax.

“Come and chill out,” she said. “This is supposed to be a community place.”


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