Anyone with an interest in military history, a desire to attend the Military Academy at West Point, or family members with a desire to attend the Academy should pay a visit to the West Point Museum. The museum features "... the oldest and largest diversified public collection of militaria in the Western Hemisphere.'' The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10:30 am until 4:15 pm, and is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Days.
The museum is a department of the U.S. Military Academy and it offers support to the Cadet program by providing instruction in academics, military, and culture instruction. Not all of the museum's collection is on display, but all of the artifacts in the collection are available for inclusion in the Cadets academic instruction, as well as for special exhibits and Cadet research. The collection includes materials demonstrating the evolution of warfare, the history of the Academy and West Point, and the development of the U.S. Armed Forces.
The materials at the museum date back to before the start of the Academy. The collection began in 1777 and included materials presented to West Point following the British defeat at Saratoga. The Academy later opened in 1802 and featured numerous Revolutionary War trophies that were used during the instruction in the program. In just 20 years, the collection of artifacts at the Academy had grown and was appointed the permanent depository for war trophies. The museum opened in 1854 to display the military artifacts, and over 100 years later, in 1989, the museum moved to Pershing Center. Included in the collection now are more than two hundred years worth of military history.
The museum is four levels including a basement and sub-basement. The Large Weapons Gallery is located on the lowest level of the museum and features artillery and a World War I tank and the cannon that fired the first shot. There is also a mural depicted the Allied Invasion in 1944.
The basement is the Small Weapons Gallery and features hand-held weaponry, such as clubs, axes, swords, shoulder arms, pole arms, machine guns, and pistols. The first floor of the museum is the West Point Gallery and featuring a portrayal of West Point and the U.S. Military Academy. Exhibits include uniforms throughout history, as well as information about the Academy's most famous graduates such as Ulysses Grant, Robert E. Lee, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and John J. Pershing. The History of Warfare Gallery is also on this level, and features a history of military art. The gallery coordinates with the academic courses taught at the Academy and includes dioramas of battles, Napoleon's swords and pistols, the safety plug of the Nagasaki atomic bomb, and various trophies of war.
The final level of the museum is the History of U.S. Army Gallery and features contributions from the history of the Army. The American Wars Gallery is also on the second floor and features military artifacts from George Washington's pistols to the jungle fatigues of American's soldiers who fought in Vietnam. Potential Cadets are encouraged to visit the museum, as are those with an interest in United States military history.