The Memorial Courtyard
The commemorative courtyard at the rear of the museum is intended as a place for quiet contemplation after viewing the exhibits. The courtyard, on the south side of the lobby, contains a meandering stream recalling the water themes common to many POW experiences, and a major brick and bronze sculpture. Passing through the courtyard, walking 200 feet south brings the visitor to the site of Camp Sumter and the partially reconstructed prison stockade.
The courtyard was an integral part of the museum from the beginning. The designers and American Ex-Prisoners of War (AXPOW) believed that a place was needed to contemplate the POW's often difficult story in a reflective vein. An initial concept of a water feature and sculpture was developed and approved by AXPOW. Because art is difficult to procure via government contracts, AXPOW took full responsibility for that aspect of the work. An artist was chosen and work began under the close supervision of AXPOW. Construction of the courtyard and the water feature required extra attention. The slopes and grades of the plaza had to be extremely precise due to the requirements associated with using cascading water for visual and audible effects. Installation of the sculptured panes (which were carved off-site) also required an unusual degree of coordination and cooperation between the masons and the artist, Donna Dobberfuhl.
Did You Know?
A cell from the Hanoi Hilton has been reconstructed in the National Prisoner of War Museum. Notable prisoners held at the Hanoi Hilton during the Vietnam War include US Vice Presidential candidate James Stockdale, Senator and Presidential nominee John McCain, and Brigadier General Robinson Risner.