Experiential design firm The Hettema Group (THG) will create a new immersive, cinematic experience for The National WWII Museum as part of the upcoming Liberation Pavilion. This project was funded by the third largest individual gift in the institution’s history — a $7.5 million commitment to help complete the Pavilion and develop the Priddy Family Foundation Freedom Theater — representing a significant milestone toward the completion of the Museum’s $400 million Road to Victory Capital Campaign.
Led by Phil Hettema, whose father was a WWII fighter pilot, The Hettema Group specializes in uniquely creative, impactful design and production of experiential entertainment. The Hettema Group has a long history with the Museum as the developers of the Solomon Victory Theater’s Beyond All Boundaries 4D experience. While Beyond All Boundaries will continue to serve as the entry point to the visitor experience, the Priddy Family Foundation Freedom Theater production will serve as the capstone experience that museum guests will walk away with.
“We’re honored to collaborate with The National WWII Museum once again on this highly anticipated expansion,” said Hettema, President and Creative Executive of The Hettema Group. “Our unique and engaging production for the Liberation Pavilion’s Priddy Family Foundation Freedom Theater will highlight how the sacrifices made to defend our freedom during World War II continue to shape us today.”
Prior to the theater experience, visitors will learn about the end of World War II and the immediate postwar years through the Liberation Pavilion’s first-floor galleries, honoring those Americans who were killed or wounded as well as the immense sacrifices of an entire generation. In addition to exhibits examining the horrors of the Holocaust and moments of liberation, the floor will also include an interfaith chapel to provide a quiet space for contemplation and a gallery highlighting the story of the Monuments Men and Women.
From these somber stories, visitors will transition into the brighter narrative of hope and progress on the Pavilion’s second floor, which will examine the war’s impact in the postwar period: from the joys of homecoming and transitions back home from the battlefields to the war crimes trials, new technological innovations, movements for social change and civil rights, and developments in international and domestic affairs. Connections will be drawn between World War II and its profound meaning and relevance today.
The third-floor Priddy Family Foundation Freedom Theater will help ensure that the stories of World War II remain relevant for future generations by offering audiences a 20-minute multi-sensory experience focused on the lasting impact of World War II and the ongoing struggle for freedom and human rights. The production will highlight the struggles of the 1930s and 1940s, efforts to protect and promote freedom during and after World War II, movements for equality and civil rights in the aftermath of the war, and the nation’s role in the postwar global order. Original visuals will be projected throughout the show, and at a pivotal moment, the theater audience platform itself will rotate. The experience will highlight the importance and fragility of freedom while making the sacrifices of World War II relevant today.
Liberation Pavilion, which is expected to open in late spring 2023, will explore the end of the war, the Holocaust, the immediate postwar years, and the war’s continuing impact today. The pavilion will house two floors of exhibit space featuring personal experiences, iconic imagery, impactful artifacts and immersive settings.
“Our mission is becoming even more critical as those who served in World War II pass away, and it is our responsibility to ensure that future generations understand the lasting impact of their sacrifice,” said Stephen J. Watson, Museum President & CEO. “The transformative gift to underwrite the Priddy Family Foundation Freedom Theater will enable us to complete our campus expansion plans in 2023 with the opening of the Liberation Pavilion, highlighting what World War II means today and the ongoing struggle to preserve freedom.”