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Central Coast Veterans Memorial Museum works to preserve history 

On the corner of Grand and Monterey Street is the Veterans Memorial Building, but at first glance you wouldn't realize that the building is also home to the Central Coast Veterans Memorial Museum. The lack of visibility is something that curator Harry Hoover said he and the current staff are working on.

The museum started as an idea between about 12 veterans who met at the local American Legion chapter.

click to enlarge REMEMBERING THOSE BEFORE US Volunteers at the veterans museum take attendees on a story-filled tour from World War l to the present. - PHOTO BY KAREN GARCIA
  • Photo By Karen Garcia
  • REMEMBERING THOSE BEFORE US Volunteers at the veterans museum take attendees on a story-filled tour from World War l to the present.

"We wanted to try and come up with a museum to honor the veterans in the county," Hoover said.

The location of the museum is an old dining hall that was recently used as storage of sorts until 2001, when the county gave the space to the veterans' museum. After cleaning out the hall and working with the county to fix the ceiling and add new lighting fixtures, the space was ready to be turned into a museum.

It's put together and currently run by about 31 volunteers, the majority of whom are veterans. Every Tuesday and Thursday, they archive, refine the library, catalog newly donated items, and work on displays. Every so often, those displays change, Hoover said, so the veterans memorial museum is different with every visit.

The museum is set up in chronological order from World War l to the present. Photos, uniforms, cameras, helmets, toys, and other items that belonged to veterans are along the walls and housed in display cases.

Gail Pruitt, computer archivist of the museum, and Sandra McGregor, the secretary and librarian, took New Times on a recent tour through the exhibits. Each artifact is accompanied by the carefully researched story of the person it once belonged to.

"We're interested in developing the history of the person. We're focused on the person who was in the service and what they did," Pruitt said.

She said one of her most interesting finds was a tattered United States flag. With the flag came the name of the commander on the ship that the flag would have flown on, Lt. Milo Morrison. From there Pruitt started her research and was able to find the name of the ship Morrison was on as well as an article with an interview of him.

"It was just an interesting process to try to track this down and fortunately because of the resources we have you can get a lot more information," she said.

The museum works in conjunction with the Library Of Congress on the Veterans History Project. Volunteers get trained on how to record and film interviews with veterans. The project also interviews civilians such as war industry workers and volunteers who served in support of the Armed Forces. The interviews are sent to the Library of Congress archives, and a digital copy is given to the interviewee.

The main goal of the museum, Sandra McGregor said, is to remember the individuals who served the country.

The museum is opened Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information about the museum visit vetmuseum.org.

Fast fact

A memorial exhibit bearing the names of 58,000 men and women who served the country during the Vietnam War is returning to San Luis Obispo for the first time in 21 years. The San Luis Obispo County Veterans Services Office will host The Wall That Heals, a scaled replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The free exhibit—which consists of the replica memorial, mobile education center, and information tent—will be open between midnight on March 29 and 2 p.m. on April 1 at the Madonna Meadows. The Wall That Heals is provided by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, a nonprofit organization that founded the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The San Luis Obispo County Veterans Offices applied to host the wall in May 2017 and was one of 38 applicants approved to host the exhibit in 2018. Δ

Staff Writer Karen Garcia wrote this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send tidbits to strokes@newtimesslo.com.


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