Museum committee eyes floor plans, renderings
By Ty Johnson
Published in News on June 7, 2012 1:46 PM
The proposed view of the city's Air Force Museum from the south, as rendered by Verner Johnson, the consultant firm hired for the planning of the museum. The drive-thru of the former bank building would be converted into the museum's main entrance.
Lou Sirianni, left, of Verner Johnson, manipulates pieces of paper representing museum features on a floor plan while Tricia Cook, standing, also with Verner Johnson, and Assistant City Manager Tasha Logan look on. The layout is of the city of Goldsboro's building at 2406 E. Ash St. that has been proposed to house an Air Force museum.
The first-floor floor plan being considered by attendees of the community forums includes quarter-sized models of what's being billed as the Heritage Squadron -- a collection of each plane flown by the 4th Fighter Wing in its history. In the northeast corner of the building, a two-person flight simulator is planned, while the history of the 4th Fighter Wing would be chronicled upstairs.
Jimmie Edmundson lifts the curtain and peers out through what was once a drive-thru bank teller window.
It's the first time the chairman of the Air Force Museum Citizen's Committee has been in the city's building at 2406 E. Ash St. since the Arts Council of Wayne County moved out last July, and the building is barren.
Just minutes before, he had been sitting in the anteroom in Historic City Hall, piecing together possible museum attractions on a floor plan of the building he now stands in like an open-ended jigsaw puzzle.
His committee has been meeting since February, but with less than seven hours to go before the first community forum, it still hadn't decided whether this tribute to the Air Force is a museum or a center. The committee couldn't agree on name options, although Wings over Wayne has been eliminated as a possibility because some say it conjures images solely of Seymour Johnson's biannual air show.
The conversation during Tuesday's meeting led to a trio of final options. Goldsboro Air Force Museum was one, with the 4th Fighter Wing Aviation Center and First to Fly Aviation Center, the others. First to Fly was meant to be a play off of the state's "First in Flight" motto along with the 4th's "Fourth but First" slogan.
Assistant City Manager Tasha Logan spoke up, asking how the latter two ideas incorporated the base's 916th Air Refueling Wing. Travel and Tourism Director Betsy Rosemann asked, similarly, about the museum's inclusion of the 414th Fighter Group.
Everyone looked to the end of the table where Edmundson sat.
"The 4th is the story," he said, succinctly.
The committee moved on, but later, standing in the building that has been proposed to house the museum, he expanded on his point.
"We've got to play on the 4th Fighter Wing because of its history," he said. "It's the 4th Fighter Wing's history and heritage that's going to drive visitors here."
For all of the history and heritage, though, the museum is moving quickly toward becoming more of a learning center with an extreme focus on science, technology, engineering and math -- just as the Goldsboro City Council had intended for it to be when it hand-picked the members of the committee and its chairman.
The opinions of educators, including Gary Hales, the principal of the Wayne School of Engineering and a member of the committee, have been weighed heavily during the planning process, as a specific forum was held with teachers and other faculty members during consultant Verner Johnson's community evaluation phase.
The bottom floor of the museum has been drawn up to have different corners devoted to airplane design, pilot training and the technologies and support staff that keep the planes in the air in each corner, including a two-person flight simulator.
Although the team insists nothing is written in stone, especially in the interest of keeping the project's budget "modest," the division keeping the history exhibits upstairs while the more interactive exhibits are on the ground floor appears to be rigid enough.
Judine Heidicker, wife of 4th Fighter Wing historian Roy Heidicker, expressed concern both for having the history exclusively upstairs and at the flow of the exhibits, which would not allow for a single direction of traffic while following the history in chronological order.
Dan Murphy, the Verner Johnson team member in charge of the museum experience, thanked her for her opinion and entered a long explanation of why the history exhibits would be kept upstairs and the reasoning behind having the history of the wing tour begin in a dead end.
Ms. Logan explained after the meeting that the comments gathered at the forums would be taken back to the committee where members would determine if something had been left out. The committee's acting secretary, Monica Weddle, was not, however, at either of the committee meetings and Mrs. Rosemann later said the meeting results would be considered by the consultant, not the committee, although the committee would have the final say on the project scope.
She explained that the purpose of the committee was to narrow down ideas -- for example, mission statements and name options -- for the public to consider.
But conceptual ideas, like the subject of the museum itself, seem to have been already determined, especially since each of the consultant firm's slides carries the 4th Fighter Wing's shield, with no mention of the other wings.
Jim Kasey is one of four non-committee members at the community forum Tuesday night, where the Verner Johnson consultant team the city hired to plan the museum presented the museum ideas the committee had discussed just hours before.
Murphy showed a floor plan that included an elaborate display in the building's center atrium, which is expanded with a glass enclosure on the north side.
The display has been billed as the Heritage Squadron -- a collection of seven quarter-sized models of the airplanes the 4th Fighter Wing has flown since its Eagle Squadron days during World War II.
An option for two half-sized models of the F-15E and one of its predecessors was scrapped by the committee during its breakout session earlier in the day, but Kasey is wondering about the B-52s he remembers from his 20-year stint in the Air Force that ended when he retired from Seymour Johnson.
"Is it just the 4th?" he asked, reminding Murphy that there were other planes and wings in the base's history.
"Yes sir, you're right," Murphy said, to which Kasey had a short, affable reply.
Those at the meeting chuckled before Murphy addressed what those in the committee meeting hours before had learned: The museum will focus on the 4th Fighter Wing.
"We certainly are prioritizing the 4th and, to some extent, the 916th, because they are here now," Murphy said, referring to the plans for a quarter-sized steel frame of a KC-135 Stratotanker to be suspended above the Heritage Squadron, dwarfing the fighter jets.
Kasey's wife, Fran, expressed concern at the renderings, which show the drive-thru of the building after it has been converted into an entrance. She said she likes that front and wishes it could be facing Ash Street.
"This way, it will always look like First Savings and Loan," she said of the rendering showing the north side of the building, harkening back to the building's decades as a bank before it was purchased by the Arts Council of Wayne County and, later, the city of Goldsboro.
Mrs. Kasey turned her next question to Roy Heidicker, the 4th Fighter Wing's historian.
She asked about funding and how the base was involved, but learned neither Seymour Johnson nor the National Air Force Museum would be contributing financially or to assist with staffing the museum.
If anything, the national museum is drawing back its operations, he said, due to deep cuts at the federal level.
"That's what a lot of people think," Mrs. Kasey said, concerning the Air Force's involvement with the project, which Heidicker revealed was independent and would need to be completely funded by the city, county and other entities.
But the county still hadn't been formally involved in the project as of Monday, where, at the Goldsboro City Council meeting, District 2 Councilman Bob Waller asked about the other government entity city officials have continually said was vital to the museum project's success.
Waller was told that the county commissioners had been invited to attend the community forums, but they were not among those gathered at either meeting this week.