By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
HUDSON – If you are looking for a genuine interaction with history, be sure to visit the American Heritage Museum in Hudson. Guests have the unique opportunity to see some of the world’s most rare aircraft, American classic automobiles, historic tanks, armored vehicles, and military artifacts. There is something for everyone to enjoy.
“We just love when people come to visit the museum for the first time; it is such a surprise for them,” said Director of Marketing and Communications Hunter Chaney.
He recommends giving yourself at least two hours at the museum, but notes most visitors stay for the day.
“It’s a museum that is in a 64,000 square foot building with over 80 major artifacts, and hundreds of other additional accompanying artifacts,” he said. “There is a lot to see.”
The American Heritage Museum opened in 2019, but due to COVID, was closed for most of 2020, and had limited operation in 2021. Chaney said it is very much still a new museum this year. It joined the Historic Aviation Hangar and Classic Automobile Barn museums, which are open during summer and fall special event weekends and also based on the same premises. All three museums are run by the educational non-profit Collings Foundation, Inc.
It highlights American history and world history from the Revolutionary War and Civil War, through World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam, Gulf War, and the war in Afghanistan.
The museum is uniquely laid out chronologically so as visitors take the tour, they are following history through a series of extraordinary exhibits and displays. An immersive World War I trench experience is offered allowing people to truly understand what trench warfare would have been like.
“There is nothing like this museum in the United States,” said Chaney. “The collection itself is very rare and just spectacularly unique. The way it is presented also makes it captivating and something that appeals to people of all walks of life and ages.”
Chaney said that the quality of the exhibits is unparalleled and is equated to the Smithsonian.
“We really strive to engage people in history,” said Chaney.
A tank demonstration weekend will be held August 13-14 and spectators will see the M4 Sherman and M24 Chaffee. Tank driving demonstrations will be held throughout the event.
The weekend of September 17-18 is the museum’s first annual World War I Aviation Exhibition. It is anticipated that the fully restored 1917 Nieuport 28 will make its flying debut.
In October, the largest living history weekend will be held. The Battle for the Airfield World War II reenactment will include a veterans round table.
“Veterans come and talk about what they were doing during World War II, which is an increasing rarity to hear such a thing,” Chaney said. “When you add the human to the history, the history lesson becomes indelible. It’s a very important time in history that we all need to remember. It gives people a much better appreciation of what happened.”
Veterans also play a key volunteer role in the museum’s operation. Visitors are able to really get a personal perspective on the history being represented.
The museum also strives to be an invaluable resource to teachers in the area. It is aligned with the state education framework.
“There is so much in the museum that can be applied to what educators are teaching in the classroom,” said Chaney.
The museum is funded by constituents, memberships, donations, and admissions.
Chaney said there is always something going on every week and the list continues to expand with author talks, demonstrations, and exhibitions.
The Collings Foundation was founded in 1979 and its mission has been the restoration and exhibition of major historical artifacts and to provide people living history style events and environments.
Jacques Littlefield was a military tank collector and before he passed away in 2009, he had an astounding collection of over 200 tanks and military vehicles. His family and foundation selected the Collings Foundation to receive the entire collection now part of the American Heritage Museum.
The main entrance for the museum is located at 568 Main Street in Hudson, and technically crosses into Stow. It is open Wednesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Standard admission is $20 Adults, $15 Seniors and Veterans and $10 for Children 12 years and younger. The rate increases for event weekends when all three museums are open. View www.americanheritagemuseum.org or Facebook for additional information and special events.