Military museum teaching personal history lessons
SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The realities of wartime can be a difficult lesson to teach, but one museum owner in downtown Savannah is trying to change that by telling the stories of the people who’ve lived it.
Gary Webb is more collector than historian.
“It’s hard to get a Russian MiG-21 in the 90s. It’s harder to sneak it past the wife,” said Gary Webb, owner of Webb Military Museum.
What keeps you coming back every day? What gets you out of bed and gets you back through these doors?
“Oh, I mean, I like to see my stuff.”
“Stuff” doesn’t begin to describe Gary’s lifelong collection, but it is a term his mother might have agreed with. As a kid living in Germany, Gary would find war relics exploring the woods, only to have his mother throw them out, calling it “junk.”
It wasn’t until Gary brought home a German soldier helmet that she finally understood.
“My mother saw it, and she referred to it as more rubbish, and was going to throw it out. And then I said, ‘Look inside of it.’ So, when she looked inside the hat, she saw a photo of his wife and child, and she said to me, ‘I tell you what, Gary, I’ll never throw out anything else you bring home.’ And look what happened.”
What happened was a lifelong collection of artifacts, manifesting itself in the Webb Military Museum. But as Gary will tell you, his masterpiece is not intended to simply be a history lesson.
Do you carry on these collections kind of as ways to tell stories for people who can’t tell them now?
“Exactly. The whole museum is about stories. I don’t get into a lot of history facts, but 70 percent of the stuff in here is named to somebody. Most museums, you’re going to get a bit of a history lesson. Mine is a real personal lesson, and I think people appreciate that.”
Those personal lessons keep the past alive, and in doing so, Gary hopes to help people understand the realities of wartime throughout our history.
Why do you think it’s important to include almost every conflict that you can?
“I think it’s important for people to understand all the conflicts. And trust me, I’m not a war guy. I’m pretty antiwar. But this gives you an idea of what people wore, how people lived, some artifacts belonging to a lot of prominent people are in here too.
As for the future of the Webb military museum, much like the artifacts that are displayed in these display cases, Gary hopes it can live on.
“The biggest question I get is, ‘What’s going to happen in 30 years?’ Well, I hope it’s still running. I hope one of my children take it over. I hope it’s still going along.
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