Is it or isn’t it — the best free museum in the United States of America?
That’s the major-league question for fans of the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center in Columbus following the close of voting Monday in the USA Today Readers’ Choice 2016 competition aimed at determining the top “Best Free Museum” of them all.
But don’t be surprised if the local museum that pays tribute to the sacrifice, heroism and honor of U.S. Infantry soldiers is, indeed, announced as No. 1 among 20 extremely well-qualified nominees across the nation.
The Columbus attraction had been battling it out with the Cleveland Museum of Art over the last couple of weeks, with the Ohio venue overtaking the National Infantry Museum at one point. Last week, with Monday’s voting deadline approaching, the leader board on the USA Today page, in essence, went dark and informed those supporting their own museum to check back on Sept. 2.
The Cleveland Museum of Art then held its ground through last weekend despite an onslaught of pleas and encouragement from the Columbus museum itself, along with a special four-star video message rallying the troops by retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey.
The deluge of support may have done the trick, with a vote for the museum just minutes from the close of voting at noon Monday offering this feedback: “We appreciate your vote! National Infantry Museum & Soldier Center is currently ranked 1 of 20.”
Though no wise soldier would dare wave the victory flag before a battle has truly been won — a declaration that won’t come until noon Friday, according to USA Today — it would appear that the hometown museum is in a pretty good position.
On top of receiving national verification that the National Infantry Museum is an elite attraction, which serves an unique educational purpose, a No. 1 designation also could help sell the city to future business prospects, while also assisting the facility with raising much-needed funds, noted Cyndy Cerbin, its communications director.
“It’s so much more than just bragging rights,” she said.
The $110 million, 190,000-square-foot National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center opened in June 2009 and currently attracts more than 300,000 visitors each year.