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Written by
John Andrew Prime
Featured in the July 27 issue of the Shreveport Times

Barksdale Air Force Base’s 8th Air Force Museum is bracing for changes.

One of only 12 Air Force Field Museums, it is home to 28 aircraft and 120 displays and is visited by 50,000 people a year, but with its nonprofit support group, the 8th Air Force Museum Association, must adjust to changes, in part forced by an adverse review by the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in 2008.

“The national museum identified as a necessity that we rebrand,” 2nd Bomb Wing Chief of Staff Lt. Col. Mike Thompson said at the Association’s July meeting last week. “We’ve been going back and forth on a final, actual name. It will be along the lines of ‘Global Power Museum,’ but there’s been discussion on whether the ‘Barksdale’ will be incorporated into the name”

Any new name must be approved by Air Force Global Strike Command head Lt. Gen. Jim Kowalski and will hopefully be selected in time for an Aug. 20 by-invitation brainstorming meeting at the Petroleum Club in Shreveport, he said.

As reported by The Times in 2008, the negative review warned that several of the museum’s airplanes, including its rare B-24, B-17 and B-29, might be sent to museums where they could be indoors. The adverse review also said the museum’s British Vulcan bomber, one of only a handful in existence and a gift from Her Majesty’s government, might be scrapped.

“Of the 21 different wing agencies that I oversee, (Col. Tim Fay, 2nd BW commander) asks about the museum the most and wants inputs and updates on what’s happening more than any of the others,” Thompson said. “He’s very interested and committed to everything that’s going on down here. We briefed Lt. Gen. Kowalski three times on what our plan is down here, what support we need from his command and his staff. I’ve got a lot of faith we’re going to see some commitment.”

The museum is pursuing a $3 million grant through the Air Force to renovate its current building just inside the base’s North Gate. It now operates on a $36,000 annual budget from 2nd Bomb Wing.

“We’ve asked for an annual maintenance contract of about $250,000 that will go specifically to exterior aircraft displays for washing (and) painting,” Thompson said.

The wing also has asked for permission to shed some nonairplane outdoor displays, such as an airplane tug and firetruck. “Everything sitting out there has a price tag,” he said, adding that can be as much as $15,000 a year per item for maintenance, painting and sheet metal work.

Museum Director Gary Miller noted a recent $10,000 donation from Willis-Knighton Health System has greatly benefited the museum’s B-17 bomber.

“We’re trying to turn it into a nonflying classroom. Our hope is some day you can actually get into it, and (we) can start talking about what 18-, 19- and 20-year-old kids experienced over Germany at 35,000 feet in fleece-lined jackets. It will take them back into history, so to speak.”

The museum faces a new inspection in November.

“Behind the scenes, we’re spending a lot of time starting to go through the paper chase of what do we have, things we’re not in compliance with and trying to fix those,” Miller said.

The August meeting will include discussion of an enlarged association board, a new board of advisers, redesign of the museum website and building membership and a volunteer base.

New Association President Terry Snook said it also will be “a planning meeting to set in motion a way to raise some funds to redo this building and eventually down the road to move out to where the new gate will be. It’s the beginning of what will be a multiyear process. Hopefully, we’ll lay the groundwork properly.”

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