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New Orleans Museum Plans Expansion

Rebuilding the city of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina is posing a number of challenges. Planners are still trying to determine which parts of the city should be rebuilt. But a decision has been made to reopen the city's museums and other public places. In at least one case, that of the National D-Day Museum, not only has the facility re-opened, but there are plans to expand it.

The D-Day Museum in New Orleans first opened its doors on June sixth, 2000, the 56th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy. But since that time the museum has broadened its focus to cover all aspects of World War II.

A planned $282 million expansion will quadruple the size of the facility by the year 2009. Going ahead with the expansion plan has become even more urgent since the setback New Orleans suffered last year from Hurricane Katrina.

In an effort to boost the museum and the city's recovery, local hi-tech entrepreneur Robert Savoie donated $1 million to build one section of the new museum.

"World War II had an immense impact on this country and we chose to make this gift at this time because, following Katrina, we have an incredible challenge in our city now,” said Mr. Savoie. “Now is the time for us to step forward and make a commitment to our city, make an investment in our city."

The donated funds will help construct a part of the new complex called "The Train Car Experience," through which visitors will see and hear what a young military recruit would have experienced on his way to boot camp in the early 1940s.

New Orleans City Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson says the gift from Mr. Savoie and his family is especially important at this time.

"We are very grateful to the Savoie family because it is not easy to make these kind of contributions at any time, but in post-Katrina, when everyone has suffered some loss, this is the most gracious, generous donation we have ever had, in my opinion, and it so timely because it says the expansion of the museum will go on and so will the rebuilding of the city of New Orleans," said Ms. Clarkson.

Former California Governor Pete Wilson is a member of the museum's board of directors, and sees this museum as important for America as a whole.

"This museum is being built for the next generations. We need to keep alive the legacy of World War II. Freedom is not free. We have to recognize that this global conflict saved us from a threat to freedom here in this country and the world over."

Once construction begins, the museum expansion is expected to take three years to complete.