In one room, there is a line of mannequins from the Revolutionary War with a wall-length reproduction of the Battle of Chestnut Neck in Little Egg Harbor River.
Across the room is a replica machine gun tucked in the “barracks,” and surrounded by World War I propaganda.
As you move through the doorway, you’re greeted with clippings from different local newspapers from Pearl Harbor.
All under one roof, you can find artifacts from every war, and Atlantic County’s relation to each one — all of which will be open to the public Wednesday as the new Atlantic County Veterans Museum holds its soft opening.
The building, the Daniel Estell Manor house inside Estell Manor Park, will be home to helmets and uniforms, guns and flags, all from South Jersey donors who had family members participate in these wars.
It’s a Monday morning, two days before the opening, and Cindy Mason-Purdie is moving from room to room to detail the vision she has.
Framed paintings are resting on the ground by her feet, and some walls have papers taped to them with what she plans to have hung in their place.
She said that today’s opening is to show the progress that she and her workers have made.
“The idea behind opening a museum like this is that you don’t just take this and stick it on the wall. You want to display it in the best way possible to tell its story and to showcase the person it belonged to or the event it’s associated to,” said Mason-Purdie, administrator of Atlantic County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs.
The work on the project began in 2013, when County Executive Dennis Levinson appointed Richard Squires as chairman of the Veterans Museum Committee, with support from county staff members. The committee was tasked with coordinating the collection of items.
And they received a lot.
Mason-Purdie was standing in a room on the second floor of the museum with three racks of World War I uniforms and a closet of even more behind her.
She said the response from the county has been wonderful.
“People would come out and donate one thing and then they’d call back saying ‘well now that you’ve got me thinking,’” she said. “It’s interesting that it’s given more people interest in what their dad or grandfather did.”
One of those passionate historians was Earl Cain, as he walked into the museum with a replica painting of the Battle of Chestnut Neck. Cain, an Atlantic County native who served in the New Jersey National Guard from 1964 to 1970, said his ancestor served in the Revolutionary War under Col. Richard Somers, of Somers Point.
Cain was excited as he walked from room to room, pointing at his uncle’s name on the wall of the Revolutionary War section of the museum.
“I’m amazed how this place looks,” he said. “If you look around, everything here is donated, and we really have to give credit to the county for providing us this building.”
Linda Gilmore, public information officer for Atlantic County, said the building will continue to be renovated through the spring.
Standing in a sunroom lined with stained glass pieces from every war and military rank, Gilmore points outside and says she hopes the building can one day connect to the veterans cemetery at Atlantic County Park.
Cindy Marie-Purdie is in talks with the Atlantic County Institute of Technology to install some audio descriptors and/or codes for students to scan next to exhibits to learn more. She says this while standing in an upstairs room of the museum, with a long conference table behind her. The table will be used for students to gather and discuss what they saw throughout the museum. She points to the window on one side of the room and says she even hopes to add a screen or monitor.
“We want that educational resource where students can come for field trips and not only learn about national history but also the relation to some of their family members,” she said.