The Allies' heroics in one of history's most elaborate and dangerous military campaigns is the focus of a new exhibit opening this weekend at Scranton's Everhart Museum.
"D-Day 1944: 'Accept Nothing Less Than Full Victory!'" focuses not just on the June 6, 1944, invasion of France but also the preparation that went into the endeavor, its aftermath and life back home at that time. Running Friday through June 16, it coincides with the invasion's 70th anniversary, a milestone curator Nezka Pfeifer said inspired the show's creation.
Visitors will view historic photographs plus objects from the World War II period culled from local collectors and historical societies, Pfeifer said.
"We worked with the Wayne County Historical Society (& Museum) and the Susquehanna (County) Historical Society to borrow some of the items from their collections that reflect some of the stuff that is ... related to the soldiers but some also related to things happening on the home front," she said.
Clarks Summit resident Kenny Ganz, who has collected items pertaining to World War II for 35 years, contributed around 45 pieces to the exhibit, like uniforms and other equipment.
"I thought it was great because I have this massive collection, and it doesn't do anybody good if I can't share it with people and have people look at it and appreciate it," he said.
Ganz previously displayed items from his collection at Steamtown National Historic Site, where he works, and other exhibits and shows. At some shows, he noted, older men have cried upon viewing his items, which they might not have seen since the war. The Everhart exhibit offers a good way to honor people like that, Ganz said, since today's world would not exist without them.
The D-Day invasion turned the tide of the war, Pfeifer said, and the exhibit touches on its importance in the grand scheme. She said the museum hopes to hold an observation of the D-Day anniversary and possibly some other related events, although it does not have any firm plans yet. In the meantime, she hopes visitors come away from the exhibit acknowledging and understanding the complexity of the invasion.
"The inroads were not easily made," Pfeifer said. "It wasn't like they landed and then all of a sudden they were in Paris."
Visitors also will learn about some lesser-known stories of the war, like the Comanche codetalkers who landed in France during the invasion, and see images from photographer Robert Capa. Of the numerous photographs he took that day, Pfeifer said, only 11 survived because an assistant of his exposed the remaining film.
"He was one of the eminent photojournalists of World War II, and he was on the invasion boats as they were heading toward Normandy," she said.
In addition to the D-Day exhibit upstairs, guests also will notice some changes elsewhere in the museum. While the layout of the fossil room on the first floor remains somewhat the same as previously, the walls boast new, brightly colored paint, life-size dinosaur profiles and a mural behind the stegosaurus.
"It was a very dated gallery, I'm afraid," Pfeifer said. "It had not been touched for at least 20 years, possibly more."
Pfeifer said the museum can use the additions interpretively during the various tours that take place in the gallery.
"We totally gave it a facelift," she said.
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