National World War II Museum, in New Orleans, Expands

NEW ORLEANS— The project has already taken almost as long as the war it chronicles, and the most difficult part is yet to come. But on Sunday, when the National World War II Museum opens its third building here, it will be just midway through a strategic expansion, creating a $325 million campus of six buildings, extending along three square blocks near the Pontchartrain Expressway. What is promised by 2016 is an epic survey of the American experience during the war.

The place is a museum, surely, but also something of a theme park, with 178,000 square feet and 100,000 more yet to come. There is spectacle (a special-effects theater with falling “snow,” vibrating seats and an introductory history of the war shown on a 120-foot-wide screen) and solemnity (a careful survey of the brutality of the battles in the Pacific and the casualties of the European theater). The museum features entertainment (at a Stage Door Canteen modeled on the one in wartime Times Square) and dining (a much-praised restaurant, the American Sector, whose chef, John Besh, is a former Marine). And, not incidentally, it includes what may be this country’s best permanent exhibition, on D-Day and other aspects of the war, which has attracted 3.4 million visitors since the museum opened in 2000....

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