The Museum of the American Military Family, centered on military family and community impact, relocates and seeks a permanent home with community support playing a crucial role.
The Museum of the American Military Family and Learning Center is an organization focused on the way communities and families impact each other. For the past seven years, it has been leasing space from the owner of Molly’s Bar, a Tijeras institution with its own history of family and community impacts.
So, perhaps it is only appropriate that when Molly’s Bar owner Dianne DiLallo passed away in August, and the bar closed a month later, the museum was profoundly affected.
Museum director Dr. Circe Woessner had always intended for the location beside Molly’s to be temporary, but Dianne’s death and Molly’s closing brought a new urgency to the search for a permanent home.
“When Molly’s closed, the timeline accelerated,” says Woessner via email.
Ensuring that the museum finds a new home is vital, she says, because it is the only museum in the world with the mission of preserving and showcasing the stories of military members’ families.
“We have artifacts dating back to the American Revolution and the Civil War,” Woessner says. “We have hundreds of folios of first-hand stories submitted by military ‘brats’ and spouses… We have thousands of unique artifacts chronicling centuries of family life.”
Much like the families of service members who often relocate to other states or even countries in response to the needs of the military, the museum is no stranger to moving.
Since it was founded in 2011, it has led a somewhat itinerant existence. In those 12 years, it moved three times, going from a small office in Albuquerque to a space in a military charter school and then to its current location, sharing the building with Molly’s Bar. In some ways, Woessner says that her experience as a military “brat” and a mother to a service member herself gave her the skills necessary to adapt to exactly these kinds of transitions.
“Military life has taught us two things: you have to be self-reliant and fiscally responsible,” she says. “We’ve been saving for the eventuality of purchasing our own building.”
Given the museum’s focus on families and communities, maybe it is no surprise that both family and community stepped up to help pack boxes and prepare for the move.
Dr. Allen Dale Olsen, Woessner’s father, joined in, as did a small army of friends.
“I asked a few friends to come help pack,” Woessner says. “And they asked some friends, and soon, we had this incredible outpouring of support, for which we are grateful.”
In addition to the packing assistance, moving company Two Men and a Truck offered them a discount, and a local storage company waived all fees.
With the items and artifacts now in storage, the next step is to find a new location for the museum. Back in January, Woessner submitted a proposal to the City of Albuquerque to house the museum in a vacant building in one of the city’s parks, but movement on that front has been slow.
“After eight months, nothing has transpired,” Woessner says. “So we are moving forward and fundraising to buy our own house.”
Of course, raising those funds, which Woessner estimates at approximately $400,000, will take time. Until then, the museum’s 2,281 books and 2,000 artifacts will remain in storage.
Although the move almost certainly means departing from the town of Tijeras, both Woessner and her father are grateful for the support they’ve received from their neighbors.
“The East Mountain community has been very good to us,” Olsen says. “We want to thank everyone who has stopped by the museum to bring boxes, dropped a dollar or two in the donation jar, called their elected officials, or helped pack.”
All the assistance has also helped keep the 93-year-old Olsen’s morale high.
“I’m not discouraged—just tired,” he says.
As for Woessner, she’s keeping her eyes firmly on the future.
“The sooner we can buy a building, the sooner we can get the museum back up and running and carrying out its mission,” she says.