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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Stories left to tell: Fort Worth Military Museum stays open – for now

Military Museum of Fort Worth

712 Dorothy Ln

Fort Worth, TX 76107

Admission is free, but call about hours. 

(817) 945-2680

www.facebook.com/militarymuseumoffortworth/

www.roll-call.org

For someone whose museum was a few days from closing its doors, Tyler Alberts was upbeat, ebullient and smiling on Saturday as he welcomed a continuing stream of visitors to the Military Museum of Fort Worth.

“There’s a story behind every object in here,” the museum’s executive director told a group of parents, veterans, students and children on Saturday. “Just point and ask.”

Alberts had, after all, finally made his peace with saying goodbye to the Military Museum that has consumed his life for the past 8 years. After 16 major exhibit rotations, 500-plus veterans’ stories shared and over 13,000-plus artifacts displayed, it looked like the labor of love and honor was ready to play “Taps.” Attendance and donations have been falling at the museum, located just off Camp Bowie Boulevard at 712 Dorothy Lane. It costs a little over $17,500 annually to operate the museum and the board that runs it had run out of options and funding – so they thought.

But after word spread about the closure, there was a reprieve.

For one, visitors began to crowd the small museum. “We have been averaging about 80 visitors per day since our announcement, who all say they had never heard of us prior to our closing notice,” the museum posted on its Facebook page…

Then, the cavalry rode in, so to speak, in the form of Roll Call, an organization founded by Kevin Boldt that acknowledges the service and preserves the legacy of the military through monthly luncheons. The organization offered a plan to keep the doors open for the next six months while working on a permanent plan. That plan could include a larger building with better access and more room to exhibit the massive collection Alberts and others have amassed. The funding from Roll Call includes a donation from the Carl E. Kessler Foundation.

On Saturday, the museum was crowded with curious visitors, many drawn by recent media attention about the museum that most were unfamiliar with. Alberts and other board members, such as Bill Mastin, who doubles as the landlord, made sure each visitor signed the visitor’s book and encouraged each visitor to tell four friends to drop by.

“We need to show any potential donors that people are interested in what we’re doing,” said Mastin.

Mastin and Alberts both believe the museum needs a more visible location.

The museum needs a place with more visibility and a larger space for all the items it has accumulated over the years.

“There’s so much more here that I can’t show because we don’t have the space,” Alberts said.

Even Saturday, someone brought in some objects that Alberts said he may display after further research.

“People find stuff in their attic and they don’t know what to do with it because they don’t know what it means, so they bring it here,” said Alberts.

And Alberts gathers many other items through research, haggling with dealers and attending antique shows and auctions. He showed off a World War I helmet from Pvt. A.S. VanEarde, a Kentucky resident who trained at Camp Bowie in Fort Worth. It was an item he acquired from a dealer. 

Many items like that will be part of an exhibit on Camp Bowie that Alberts is putting together for the Fort Worth Library expected to go up sometime this summer.

Alberts, the museum’s board and Roll Call all want the museum to continue to tell its story.

“We need to do more outreach and this plan will give us some time to do that,” he says.

Alberts notes that it is the 100th anniversary of World War I, the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War and the 75th anniversary of World War II. “Fort Worth played a huge role in all those wars and it would be a shame to close our doors while we should be telling the story of those who served,” he said.

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Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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