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Museum at Aberdeen Proving Ground won't be reopening

MuseumsU.S. ArmyAberdeen Proving GroundIraqNational Defense Authorization Act

Army officials are canceling plans to reopen the former Army Ordnance Museum at Aberdeen Proving Ground as the APG Museum.

Adriane Foss, a spokeswoman for the Harford County Army post, confirmed Tuesday that "the Aberdeen Proving Ground Museum will not be opening as previously planned."

The Army Ordnance Museum opened in 1924 as a showcase for military vehicles and equipment from around the world, but closed about four years ago as the Army moved its ordnance training schools from Aberdeen to Ft. Lee, Va.

Many of the vehicles and other artifacts, some which had been used in World War I, were moved to Virginia, but a number remained behind on APG, and installation officials had been working with the community on plans to open an APG Museum with the remaining artifacts.

Tom Buonaugurio, a lifetime Aberdeen resident and member of the Aberdeen Proving Ground Museum Foundation, said he recently learned "by accident" the APG garrison does not plan to open the museum this fall.

"I feel like a lot of the heritage of Aberdeen, Harford County, Maryland, is being taken out without any discussion," Buonaugurio, who worked on the installation as a civilian employee, said.

A number of enemy pieces have been on display, from a German World War II cannon mounted on a rail car to Iraqi gear used during the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 Iraq War, that were captured during the conflicts and brought to APG for study and testing.

"They really represent more of Aberdeen and Harford County, not necessarily the Army," Buonaugurio said Thursday of the exhibits.

He said members of the foundation, which has been in existence since the early 1970s under different names, work to raise money and promote museum membership.

Buonaugurio said the museum has had 200,000 visitors a year in the past.

"It was an economic boon, not just to Aberdeen, but to Harford County itself," he said.

Bob Cassilly, of Fountain Green, is a board member of the Museum Foundation. He is a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, and was a student at the Ordnance School at APG, and later spent 25 years there as a civilian employee.

Cassilly said foundation leaders had hoped to raise millions of dollars to build a modern hangar to house the exhibits, many of which are exposed to the elements.

"The only route we can go, which doesn't seem like a very viable route, is the political route," he said.

Buonaugurio said the foundation has raised about $200,000 in private contributions.

"We were expecting that to be the seed money for bigger fundraising when the museum reopened," he lamented.

Buonaugurio is sending letters to elected officials who represent Harford County, up to U.S. Rep. C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger, seeking assistance.

"As the Army works to do more with less, it has to make difficult decisions and prioritize," Ruppersberger said in a statement issued Monday. "We have to make long-term investments so that we can meet the threats of tomorrow, from terrorists to cyber attackers, head-on."

The congressman said in his statement he was "disappointed that, after more 80 years, there will no longer be a functioning museum at APG and it's unfortunate that we learned of this so soon after the [National Defense Authorization Act of 2014] cleared the House."

Jim Richardson, Harford County's economic development director, said he and Harford County Executive David Craig spoke with Maj. Gen. Robert Ferrell, senior commander of APG, last week about the Army's change of heart on the museum.

"Gen. Ferrell reached out to the county executive and to me to give us a heads up that something was going on, and we're certainly working through [the general] to see what can be done," Richardson said.

Richardson said an aircraft which had been used in reconnaissance missions over Iraq recently was added to the collection that remains on the post.

"We were always hopeful that we'd be able to re-energize that and have it as part of our tourism and visitors portfolio," Richardson said of the museum.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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MuseumsU.S. ArmyAberdeen Proving GroundIraqNational Defense Authorization Act
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