NEW ORLEANS (press release) – The National WWII Museum announces the third largest individual gift in the institution’s history—a $7.5 million commitment to help complete the upcoming Liberation 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. Through the generosity of the Priddy Family Foundation led by Foundation Chairman and Museum Trustee Robert Priddy and wife, Kikie, this impactful gift will fund a new immersive, cinematic experience on the top floor of the three-story capstone exhibit hall now under construction.
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.
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. Drawing upon cutting-edge technology to create an immersive, emotional experience, the production will highlight how freedom almost vanished from the world in 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. Powerful, original visuals will be projected throughout the show, and at a pivotal moment, the theater audience platform itself will rotate. The memorable, thought-provoking experience will highlight the importance and fragility of freedom while making the sacrifices of World War II profoundly relevant today.
“The Museum is deeply grateful to Robert, Kikie and the Priddy Family Foundation for their leadership, generosity and dedication to preserving the voices and legacies of the WWII generation,” said Stephen J. Watson, Museum President & CEO. “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. 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 Liberation Pavilion, highlighting what World War II means today and the ongoing struggle to preserve freedom.”
A longtime supporter of The National WWII Museum, The Priddy Family Foundation previously named the US Navy flag on the campus’s Founders Plaza and supported the Museum’s oral history digitization efforts in honor of their family’s WWII service. Robert’s father, Clarence Nathern Priddy, was a Pharmacist’s Mate First Class on the USS Colorado, and Kikie’s father, Edward Hughes Fitzpatrick, served with the Navy Seabees. While the Foundation’s previous gift honored their family’s history of service, the $7.5 million commitment to underwrite the Priddy Family Foundation Freedom Theater reflects their dedication to ensuring that future audiences of all ages will continue to be inspired by the values and legacies of the WWII era.
“We believe that the Greatest Generation embodies American strength and values, and we are committed to supporting the Museum in their efforts to recognize the sacrifices of this generation and to inspire all people to embrace the lessons of this global conflict,” Robert said. “The importance of these lessons, and their relevance for today and the future, inspired us to take a leadership role in the funding of the Liberation Pavilion by underwriting the Priddy Family Foundation Freedom Theater. We hope that the central theme of human freedom and the exploration of ‘what World War II means today’ will inspire all who see it to reflect on the meaning of freedom and their role in preserving it.”
The Priddy Family Foundation Freedom Theater is being developed by The Hettema Group based in Pasadena, California. 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 Phil 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 National WWII Museum tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world—why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today—so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America’s National WWII Museum, the institution celebrates the American spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifices of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and served on the Home Front. For more information on TripAdvisor’s #1 New Orleans attraction, call 877-813-3329 or 504-528-1944 or visit nationalww2museum.org.