Gainesville's Medal of Honor museum on pace to open in fall

Apr. 25—The Medal of Honor Museum on the North Central Texas College campus won't be ready to greet visitors this week, but it is getting there. It's even got a guy to run it now.

The college recently hired Tim Hicks to run the museum. He will serve as part of the college faculty, but his full-time job will be to make the museum an educational (and successful) destination. It w ill be supported by the college going forward, with state grant money on hand to get the operation off on a secure footing.

Hicks grew up in southern Maine. He attended the University of New Mexico, getting his undergraduate degree in Anthropology in 2011.

Why go from Maine to New Mexico? "My grandfather used to work at the White Sands Missile Ra nge, so we're very familiar with the area and things I ike that," Hicks explained. "I just thought it was a good opportunity to try something new."

From there, Hicks moved on to Texas Tech to get a Master's degree in Museum Science. That, in turn, set him up in 2016 with his first big job at the Alamo.

"There were a lot of visitors ev ery day. We did living history there — historical interpreters who are dressed in period clothing from the 1830s, talking about the Texas Revolution, the battle and things like that " Hicks said. "My job was creating programs for the public, themed events that would take place like Fourth of-July or any kind of Saturday events, things like that. It was very public forward and education-based."

What drew him from the hustle-and-bustle of San Antonio to little ol' Gainesville in rural North Texas?

"It was a chance to go back to what I used to love, which was delving into the artifacts... creating exhibits that would create a relationship between the visitor that will come and experience " Hicks said.

"I saw the Medal of Honor this museum here as a SEE museum, pgreat opportunity to showcase the sacrifice and bravery of the Medal of Honor recipients, but also to tell not only the recipients' military service, but who influenced them or what influenced them and what was their families like when they went away during war time," he continued.

Hicks has already started shifting through oral histories collected from recipients by Gainesville's Medal of Honor Host City program, which brings a handful of recipients to Gainesville every April. The intention is to put the recipients' service to our country into a broader context. There will be films, interactive displays, an enhanced website and other media for school kids to engage with.

"We're working right now on the exhibit space,"

Hicks said. "We'll have exhibit spaces talking about the recipients, some text panels talking about the recipients' lives and things like that."

Both Hicks and Gainesville Mayor Tommy Moore (who oversees the Medal of Honor committee) emphasize that the museum isn't just an added attraction for visitors each April. It is meant to be a year-round, constantly evolving facility that will double as a community center for North Central Texas College and the city.

"This will be open so that no matter what day of the year it is to come and learn about these recipients," said Hicks, who will spend the summer readying to move into the nearly-finished museum.

"We want to make this a destination place for a lot of things," Moore added. "This building is going be a place for the community to use,

to have events about history or other things. The space will be available. We want to have the brown signs up (state highway signs) indicating that this is a museum and there's historical content to come and look at.

A fall 2024 grand opening is likely, according to Hicks, with the possibility of some kind of grand opening event around Veterans Day in November.