An Honored Veteran
Any nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure. — Abraham Lincoln
16th President of the U.S.

National Medal of Honor Museum and Education Center

A Stunning Charleston Harbor Site

Museum Entrance Located at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, on the eastern shore of Charleston Harbor, the museum's waterfront location is near the iconic Ravenel Bridge. The aircraft carrier USS Yorktown is moored just offshore. This site offers an ideal complement to historic Charleston on the west side of the harbor, which is consistently rated as one of the top tourist destinations in the world and welcomes between four and five million visitors each year. The museum adds a world-class, state-of-the-art facility to the area's already rich array of historic and cultural attractions.

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Museum and Education Center

Currently, there are museums for the various branches of the service; there are museums to the various military functions; and there are museums to the various wars. Medal of Honor recipients, from the Civil War to the present, are recognized in all of them. But there is no museum that brings together the story of the nation's highest military honor, all of its recipients, and the wars in which they fought. The new National Medal of Honor Museum will change that. Museum Interior

The museum will be the only one in the country dedicated solely to preserving and presenting the meaning of the Medal of Honor and the stories of its recipients. Inside visitors will experience a museum and education center that makes personal and emotional connections to recipients, events and the ideals and values that the Medal represents.

We want visitors to understand the meaning and price of freedom, and appreciate what it means to put service above self.

While the city of Charleston is across the harbor, the physical context of the museum is the site itself — the USS Yorktown, the expanse of wetlands and the clusters of trees. The concrete and glass structure, tinted gray-blue to pair visually with the Yorktown, will be built on pylons, to rise 128 feet so it hovers above the trees and matches the aircraft carrier's height. It has been designed to project strength, with five galleries radiating out to form a pentagonal structure, rising upwards and clustering into a single star-like form. Metaphorically, the stories of many individuals are gathered into a powerful collective narrative — the story of the Medal of Honor.

The 107,000 square foot museum complex includes three buildings:

First, a grass-topped land pavilion will house the museum entrance and lobby; a 240-seat auditorium; a museum shop; curatorial and archival space; and administrative offices for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation and the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation. Pedestrian Walkway

Next, a museum building that will include a Hall of Valor that can accommodate public and private events, celebrations and memorials; eight permanent and two special exhibits galleries; conference, meeting and classroom space; and a small café. A two-level pedestrian bridge — the lower level for groups and conferences and the upper level to take visitors to museum exhibits — will span a ravine to connect the pavilion to the museum.

Third, a 140-seat chapel at the tip of the site, overlooking the sea, will be connected to the museum by another two-level pedestrian bridge. It will serve as a place of contemplation and celebration for public as well as personal events.

The National Medal of Honor Museum will be designed with the goal of meeting LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) performance certification at the silver level. LEED certification is determined by the U.S. Green Building Council, which sets voluntary standards for high performance, sustainable buildings.

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Throughout the museum, visitors will have multiple opportunities to meet, interact with and learn from recipients, through films, videos, interactive elements and in-depth explorations of personal stories and experiences that will honor and promote the ideals and values associated with the Medal.

Our goal is an informative, inspiring, even a transformative experience.

Presidential Exhibit Museum exhibits will explore themes like bravery, selflessness and patriotism as they track the Medal's evolution. A detailed timeline around the Hall of Valor will provide visitors a chronological orientation; eight permanent and two special exhibits galleries will provide content and context.

  • In the first gallery, an introductory film entitled Why We Fight will explore the need for a standing army to protect our freedoms. Outside the theater, exhibits will examine how American democracy shaped a medal that recognizes bravery without regard for rank or status.
  • Three galleries will explore in greater detail the Medal's history: the Shaping of the Medal's Traditions, from its origins during the Civil War up to the start of World War I; Crisis and Change, depicting the years from World War I through World War II; and The New Tests of Courage, from the Cold War to the present
  • One gallery will explore the roles that U.S. Presidents have played in defining and awarding the Medal, from the decision-making process to the Medal ceremony.
  • Two galleries will be devoted to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society's Character Development and Citizen Honors programs. They will encourage visitors to consider how the values embodied by the Medal relate to their own lives, and will feature stories of Medal recipients who have also led inspiring lives as civilians.
  • Two special exhibits galleries will showcase temporary and traveling exhibits to broaden the number of topics covered in the museum.
  • A second film, Sacrifice and Valor, will be an emotional experience, exploring the significance of the Medal, the sacrifices of its recipients and its meaning for all of us.

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While classroom space will enable us to host thousands of groups of all ages each year, outreach initiatives, including electronic field trips, will take museum programs and exhibits into classrooms around the country, reaching millions more students and groups. Our exhibits and programs, on- and off-site, will showcase two key initiatives of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society and its collaborative partner, the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation: the Character Development Program and the Citizen Honors Program.

Courage Today The Character Development Program incorporates the values of the Medal — courage, patriotism and sacrifice — into middle and high school curricula to build character and promote responsible citizenship. Through the stories of Medal recipients, the new museum and education center will help visitors — especially America's young people — make connections between the values that contribute to success on the battlefield and how they will live their lives, both today and in the future.

Medal recipients believe there is no higher form of patriotism than serving our nation's young people. The Character Development Program, which features lesson plans and video vignettes of Medal of Honor recipients, is available, free of charge, to schools nationwide. Medal recipients often pay personal visits to classrooms as part of the program.

Since the program was launched in 2010, thousands of teachers have received curriculum training and thousands more have participated in free online tutorials. Hundreds of thousands of students have been reached. Through the museum and education center and our outreach we have the potential to reach millions more.

The Citizen Honors Program recognizes ordinary Americans who have made a difference in the lives of others through a singular act of extraordinary heroism or through a continued commitment of putting others first. Each year the members of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society select three U.S. citizens for Citizen Honors. Recent recipients have included teachers and school administrators who have sacrificed their lives to protect children caught in school shootings, teenagers who have risked their lives to save others and citizens of all ages whose efforts help those in need. Medal Recipients

The Museum Foundation also plans to develop a Leadership Institute, which will use the values associated with the Medal, and the personal stories of its recipients, to offer timeless, inspiring leadership lessons to help address the challenges organizations face today, whether in a small or large business, government organization, non-profit, or educational institution. The fast-paced, ever-evolving complexities and opportunities that organizations confront — the need to inspire, engage and execute best plans — are as applicable in the 21st century workplace as they are in the heat of battle.

Participants will learn from the experiences of some of the nation's most courageous leaders and draw inspiration from the courageous actions and decisions of soldiers in battles throughout the nation's history. Rather than focusing solely on the military strategy of battle, the Leadership Institute will emphasize the people — Medal of Honor recipients — their decisions and the outcome based on those decisions. Programs will help build and develop leadership skills among participants, shaping and inspiring goals and successes.

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Design Team

Safdie Architects of Boston, Massachusetts, was selected for their creativity in a variety of settings, the unique nature of every building they design, and their skill in working with waterfront sites. Notable Safdie-designed museums include the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas; the Khalsa Heritage Memorial Complex, the national museum of the Sikh people in India; the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa; and the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem, Israel.

Moshe Safdie was recently awarded the 2015 AIA Gold Medal by the American Institute of Architects. Considered one of the profession's highest honors, the Gold Medal is given annually to an individual whose work has had a lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture.

Gallagher & Associates has designed some of the world's most memorable museum experiences, from the National World War II Museum, to high profile projects in Asia and Europe. Under Patrick Gallagher's guidance, the firm has gained international acclaim for its leadership in the field of museum planning and experience design. The firm's collective portfolio is extremely diverse and often flows from the creation of an interpretive and economic master plan, to full service renovation and finally, to complete ground up building projects.

Projects managed by Gallagher & Associates of Silver Spring, Maryland, include; the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California; the Museum and Visitor Center at Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania; and the Normandy American Cemetery Visitor Center in France.

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The museum and education center has been designed to be self-supporting, with projected revenues sufficient to cover all operating costs. Our fundraising goal is $110 million, which will cover the museum, exhibits, fund raising, and administrative costs and contingencies:

Preliminary Budget

National Medal of Honor Museum
$71 million
Exhibit Design & Fabrication
20 million
Fund raising/Administrative Costs (covering 5 years)
8 million
Pre-Opening Staffing Costs and Opening Events
2 million
9 million
$110 million



Consumer research, which was part of the planning process for the new museum and education center, rated the National Medal of Honor Museum concept highly among visitors across all demographics, especially among families with children, veterans and the millions of visitors who travel to Charleston each year. And once it has opened to visitors, we have designed the new museum and education center to be self-supporting, with projected revenues – from admissions, retail sales, food service, membership, program income, facility rentals and fund raising – sufficient to cover all operating costs.

Our projected annual operating budget of $4 million, including capital reserves, is based on conservative revenue assumptions: We looked at a range of earned revenue potential and worked from the low end of that range, with our break-even point assuming annual visitation numbers lower than those currently enjoyed by the USS YORKTOWN. And although we anticipate that related commercial activity at the site adjacent to the new museum has the potential to provide additional income, we have not factored any revenues from commercial activities into our assumptions.

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