I wasn’t going to post anything more about world war museums or sites. I figured people aren’t too interested in hearing about them, so the two reviews I’ve already written would be enough.
But when my oh-so-laconic son, coming out of a World War II-related site yesterday, remarked, “Even I found this one moving,” I thought I should post once more.
It wasn’t even a museum this time; it was the Arromanches 360. It’s a circular movie; in other words, the audience stands inside a circle of nine screens where stills and films from the D-Day invasion are projected. Watching this film was the first time I’ve gotten any sense of how it might have felt to be a civilian caught up in the invasion or a soldier taking part in it: the fear, the chaos, the noise, the dust. It was all there.
Besides the Battle of Normandy Memorial Museum at Bayeux, which I reviewed rather negatively, most of the sites along the D-Day beaches seem to focus on just one small aspect of the invasion. Yesterday, besides the circular film, we also visited the Musée du Débarquement, which I suppose translates as the Museum of the Debarkation. It was focused solely on the construction of the artificial harbor at Arromanches and how the allies created floating bridges to allow swift supply flow to the troops. It was also, by the way, by far the most crowded museum we’ve visited this trip, making it extremely loud and unpleasant, so we didn’t stay long.
There are other narrowly-focused museums that we didn’t visit:
- The Canadian Museum at Juno Beach focuses on the role of Canadian volunteers in the war.
- The Pegasus Memorial is a museum dedicated to the men of the 6th British Airborne Division.
- The Utah Beach Museum focuses on the American landing at Utah Beach.
- The Normandy Tank Museum
- The Museum of the Merville Battery (German bunkers)
- The Grand Bunker – Atlantic Wall Museum, about the British capture of the German headquarters at the mouth of the River Orne
- A radar museum
- The Overlord Museum on Omaha Beach
And there are more. Obviously, I can’t make any recommendations as to which museums are best and which to avoid. What I can say is that the circular film is definitely worth seeing. I don’t know if any of the other sites would touch my son (and me) the way this one did. Our limited views (the two museums we did visit) were much too dry and fact-filled to have that effect.
If all of these different organizations worked together to come up with one huge central, effectively organized museum, instead of these separate, chaotic, limited, small ones, they would be able to do a much more effective job of teaching about D-Day and its importance. As it stands now, it would take an aficionado many days devoted solely to studying the D-Day invasion to do it justice, and we’re not such aficionados.