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The National World War II Museum in New Orleans continues to expand, and its recent unveiling, the John E. Kushner Restoration Pavilion, allows visitors to watch conservators repair and restore valuable World War II artifacts.
Tours are offered daily at noon for groups of up to 20, giving visitors a behind-the-scenes chance to view techniques used in restoring historical artifacts such as boats, vehicles, weapons and military equipment. The pavilion will also house a wood shop and areas for welding, painting and exhibit fabrication.
The current spotlight of the new 14,000-square-foot pavilion is the Higgins Industries Patrol Torpedo (PT) boat, the PT-305, which saw action in the Mediterranean Theater. During WWII, Andrew Jackson Higgins, most widely known as the creator of the landing craft used in D-Day, built PT boats — small vessels used to attack larger surface ships.
“The PT-305 is a huge vessel,” said Kacey M. Hill, the museum’s communications director. “The pavilion space is a nice size, and we can fit items in there like this PT-305 and really work on them.”
Upcoming artifacts to be restored include a fire truck, a Sherman tank, artillery pieces, a German Opal staff car and a Dodge ambulance.
Free tours are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Visitors to the complex can register upon arrival.
Another addition to the museum, although admission is not required, is the Soda Shop by noted New Orleans chef, John Besh. Offering desserts that were popular in the 1930s and 1940s, the menu includes fountain sodas served in vintage, one-quart seltzer bottles and house-made ice creams and milkshakes in flavors that add a modern New Orleans touch including bananas foster, Sector candy bar crunch and Creole cream cheese red velvet. The Soda Shop also serves Steen’s cane syrup cupcakes, iced with unusual items such as candied bacon, as well as house-made marshmallow cream pies and specialty coffees.
The Soda Shop is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for desserts and sandwiches and 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. for breakfast. Besh’s menu, which adapts yesterday’s dishes to today’s palate, includes a “build-a-biscuit” option as well as grilled pimento and Creole tomato sandwiches.
“It’s a fun family experience that you can have whether or not you’re visiting the museum,” Hill said.
The Soda Shop is part of Besh’s American Sector restaurant and lounge, dedicated to the World War II era. Parking is free for patrons after 3 p.m. in the parking lot on Magazine Street between Andrew Higgins Drive and Poeyfarre Street.
Next up for the museum will be the U.S. Freedom Pavilion, scheduled to open in November 2012. The new space will honor all branches of the military that fought in World War II. The Coast Guard and Merchant Marine don’t get their fair share of attention, Hill said, and this pavilion hopes to rectify that omission. The Freedom Pavilion will also showcase large planes such as the Boeing B-17, a “submarine experience” which simulates submarine battles and the contributions of the nation’s industries to the war effort.