OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum unveiled plans on Wednesday for a new $7 million project that will upgrade the museum and add new exhibits and remembrances about the deadly attack that killed more than 160 people nearly two decades ago.
The five-phase project is expected to be completed in November. It will include moving and expanding the Gallery of Honor, which pays tribute to the victims, to include videos from family members sharing memories about their loved ones. An overlook balcony will give visitors a new view of the outdoor memorial, and evidence gathered by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies will be put on display at the museum, which, along with the memorial, honors the 168 people, including 19 children, who died in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building.
Memorial officials hope the upgrades will help the museum attract new visitors who may not have been alive at the time of the attack as well as compel guests to return, said Executive Director Kari Watkins.
"We know that as we get further and further away from April 19, our job is to remain relevant. We have to teach this to a generation of kids who weren't born. We've got to figure out how to tell this story in a way they learn it — and they learn differently than I was taught," Watkins said after a wall-breaking ceremony at the museum.
Companies, foundations and individuals have donated more than $6 million for the improvements, said Susan Winchester, chairman of the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation. Donors were invited to use a hammer at the wall-breaking ceremony to pound one of the walls that will be torn down.
Winchester, who lost her sister, Peggy Clark, in the bombing, said the new and improved Gallery of Honor will give each of the victims a voice.
"As a family member, my nieces can tell their stories and memories of their mother for others to hear and realize she wasn't a faceless person, but rather she was a mother, a sister, a wife and a daughter and an everyday ordinary person just like you," she said.
Patrick Gallagher of Gallagher and Associates, which is designing the content, said the displays will include new interviews, technology and film clips never before seen that will connect visitors to the story.
When the outdoor memorial opened in 2000 and the museum in 2001, it lacked a lot of the documents and information pertaining to the investigation, Watkins said. Now, investigative material from the FBI and other law enforcement agencies will be on display, helping to teach people about the outcome of the bombing.
"There are just incredible lessons we can learn from all that, and we'll teach through that," she added.