Wilson History & Research Center - Year Three: Retrospective 2010 and What's in Store for 2011
The Small Business Administration makes no bones about it. If a business makes it three years it has a very good chance of making it five years and if it makes it five, ten is a certainty. So this is a seminal year for Wilson History & Research Center (WHRC). Looking back over the proceeding 24 months, I am astounded by the many, many benchmarks that we have literally blown through. While we have been assured repeatedly that we could not do many things, we have done nearly every single thing that we set out to do, and many things that we had no idea we would want to do when we began. With all of these accomplishments in retrospective, we find that we exceeded virtually everyone’s expectations by a wide margin. In many cases we exceeded our own expectations. So you ask for examples? Of course, and here they are:
Illness – Small start up companies, even those that are tax-exempt charitable foundations must have vision for them to develop momentum. Generally the person who created or organized the small company supplies that vision. In instances when a company is very young and its organizer is unable to be hands on (because of external interruptions or illness) such companies usually fail and fail quickly. It is a nightmare scenario and it happened this year to WHRC and myself. We are blessed at the “Center.” We have a wealth of educated, motivated and talented people, both employed by WHRC and who are close friends of the “Center” and myself. These remarkable people, when things became bleak, came together, stepped up to the plate and non-stop picked up the slack. The point is we have an abundance of leadership and my extended absences did not alter the course of the WHRC. If anything, they helped keep more wind in the sails than would have available had illness not struck. So what happened?
In mid March 2010, I was diagnosed at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, with terminal, incurable and untreatable cancer of the esophagus. It was found that I was in the last phase of stage 4 cancer with but weeks to live. The cancer had been with me for several years although I never knew it. By the time I was diagnosed the cancer had metastasized and was in my blood, a major tumor at the junction of my esophagus and stomach and a dozen or so related tumors in my lymph glands. And if that is not enough, tests found evidence of it beginning to spread, with positive identification in my adrenal glands. The principal tumor had begun to desiccate, consequently I also had severe abdominal bleeding, thus no red blood cells, so I was on full time oxygen. Despite my condition, the diagnosis came as a complete surprise. Honestly, I was under the impression that I was suffering from a temporary disorder, not terminal cancer. I was not ready to throw in the towel, which the Mayo was advocating, so I transferred to the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Center at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock and into the care of Dr. James Suen and Dr. Issam Makhoul as well as countless others. Now three rounds of chemotherapy, one round of radiation and nine months later I am well. I am in complete remission with no prospect of recurrence, essentially cured. It has not happened before not at this advanced stage, not without surgery. Photos of the tumor show a new esophagus, as though cloned! The Lord at work! During my illness countless people took the effort to show their caring natures through it all, and today I feel blessed. It was a very close call. It was rough (cancer is every bit as difficult and painful as you have been told) but it is now over. By making this the top story of our year I do so to reassure our supporters that I am going to be here a long, long time and yes your contributions to the “Center” will be taken good care of. I do encourage you, if you are so inclined, to generously donate toward the research and cure of this horrible disease, a disease that threatens to destroy more families than even war. I of course recommend my treatment center and hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas. You can reach them here: http://cancer.uams.edu/.
The Collection – Our collection is growing. Not only in size but in stature and recognition. This year the prestigious “Book of Alternative Records” selected us as having the largest military headgear collection in the world. Our collection survived an extensive audit, as extensive as any accounting audit I have ever witnessed. Many of you know that our collection includes much more than headgear. In fact we can safely say that we care for nearly close to 15,000 individual items, among which are, blouses, pants, belts, boots, socks, medals, orders, awards, tinnies, honor daggers, knives, swords, sword and dagger hangers and frogs, shoulder boards, field equipment, and even a horse’s gas mask. So our audit required that we eliminate everything but headgear, then we had to eliminate duplicates. We did get to keep duplicates which were identical and otherwise would not have been allowed, but for the fact that they had different manufacturers. The simmering process brought us to a solid 5,072 separate and distinct headpieces. While it cut the collection into a third of its actual size, it has provided us with a catalogue of uniquely different headpieces. And while that catalogue numbered 5,072 this summer, it continues to grow and we can safely say that the number is up by a few hundred today and should grow by around 500 a year, which if you take the same averages, our collection should also grow by a total of 1,500 pieces a year. But if the past is any indication, then that is about half what we have grown a year for the last three years.
Welcome to the Book of Alternative Records
Largest Collection of Military Headgear – Current World Record
The Wilson History & Research Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, USA has a collection of 5072 different items of military headgear from 87 countries and the United Nations, as of October 2010. http://www.alternativerecords.co.uk/recorddetails.asp?recid=449
The Stars of the Show – Take a look at our “Featured Item” section. This year it has seen a great deal of development. It began the year as “Featured Headpieces” and as the year developed we found that we wanted to exhibit more than headpieces, so we substituted the term “Item” for “Headpieces.” This area receives the most attention from visitors to our site. By year’s end we had featured 25 separate items, two of which were not headpieces.
Curator Control – Internally, we developed more organizational systems and added three times the physical space for our growing collection and public gallery. We have been able to now house each and every piece, on site, in its own plastic box or drawer. The conservation benefit is incalculable. However, the organizational aspect is dramatic. Our new storage and tracking system has been married to our unique Curator Control system, which gives us a daily count and location of every single artifact in the collection. It was a long haul but we have it all in hand. So next time you get bored, try to figure out where you are going to put 15,000 pieces, keep track of them, find any one of them in an instant and make room for growth within the existing categories of organization. When you figure that out, give me a call, I have got a job for you.
Our People – We receive many requests for information about the staff of WHRC and how to contact them, so in alphabetical order I introduce you to the staff members along with their email addresses of the Wilson History & Research Center as well as its supporting organization, The Business Group, INC.:
Whitney Barringer – Exhibit Coordinator and historian
Travis Bennett – Chief Technical Officer
Eva Davidson – Staff accountant
Brian McInturf – Senior Researcher and military historian
Lauren Norris Green – Creative Director and graphic designer
Sam Grubb – Senior Researcher and military historian
Jim Muir – Vendor relations and history enthusiast
Stephanie Pollard – Manager of finances and accounting of various entities
Dan Roberts – Director of History and Research (northeast) and historian
Matt Robins – Courier
Jeff Rodgers – Photographer and all things imagery
Jeremy Rodgers – Photographer and all things imagery
Ashley Sewell – Director of Conservation and Internship Coordinator
Robby Wilson – Founder and life long collector of militaria, see Wilson Bio
Jordan Winter – Director of History and Research (main office) and military historian
The Website (MILITARYHEADGEAR.COM) - When you think of achievement, you must look at numbers. Over the past year our website has become more user friendly and has seen exponential growth. People from all over the world have logged on and the numbers viewing militaryheadgear.com have skyrocketed. So if the numbers matter, then we are on the right track. During the year we have continued the development of our website and our commitment to you. Hundreds of you have asked questions through our contact portal, email@example.com, and dozens of you have corrected our mistakes and received credit. We added a guest column feature, which brings to you current and topical informative articles written by the leading experts in this international field. Our thanks and congratulations go to our panel of experts, Ludwig Baer, Kelly Hicks, Paul Sack, Bill Shea and the phenomenal staff of WHRC. Our goal of becoming a resource for researchers is becoming a reality. During the year we received inquiries from other museums, the History Channel, cinema production members including wardrobe directors and writers as well as individuals simply asking who and what we are. Our plans for year three are no less ambitious and while, after all this is only a website, we hope to continue to infect your interest so that once you dial us in, you will not turn us off. Thank you for your continued support!
Visitors Welcome – WHRC has hosted many visitors in the past two years. We welcome you as well as scholastic activities and historical study. Authors, if you are writing a book or an article and we have material that you wish to study, we want to be your resource. Under the correct assurances as to use of the work product, we will grant you license to examine, study and photograph our pieces. Our primary exclusion is research that will lead to enhance reproduction, particularly of Third Reich cloth headpieces, camouflage helmets and SS and NSDAP helmets. We want to encourage members of the collecting public as well as people who have a general interest in our collection and mission. Come see us. We will be opening a public gallery this year, which will display certain physical aspects of our collection. To arrange an appointment contact our curator, Robert White, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let him know the dates you wish to visit the gallery and which items or the type of item and country of origin you wish to review. Our staff will help you with your needs. Currently there is no charge for this service. However, if you wish to photograph the pieces, we will provide the photos for you at $17.00 per photo if printed on 8.5 × 11 paper or $4.75 per shot on an electronic media card. All photos will be made while you are here. We look forward to your visit.
Public Recognition – In addition to becoming recognized as the largest collection of military headgear in the world, we also received a great deal of interest from the press. Close to 100 articles have been written in state and national magazines and blogs in the last two years. Starting with our gift to Musee-Airborne of the Piper Cub at the 65th Anniversary of D-Day through the most recent article written by the Arkansas Times on December 23, 2010, about Philanthropic Organizations. In addition, the State of Arkansas has expressed an interest in finding us a permanent home within the state. Much to everyone’s amazement, several states are courting us to move the collection and its staff. I hope we can report something solid in next year’s report.
Publishing Company – Year three saw the formation of a new publishing company, which is a sub-set of our foundation. We published Exotische: Rare Cloth Headgear of the Third Reich, by Paul Sack. The book has been well received and sales have been terrific. If you do not have a copy press the link above and place an order. The book is a must have for cloth hat collectors. 2011 may see three books, at least one more volume of the Exotische series is planned, possibly two, as well as a historical novel. I encourage any author who is aware of our publishing company and who is looking for a change, to contact us. We have the flexibility to publish and distribute your way.
Frequently Asked Questions? We have fielded a lot of questions this year, but these are the most common:
Are the pieces on the web site for sale? Generally speaking the answer is no. But with that out of the way, let me qualify my response. With nearly 15,000 pieces in inventory and more than nine million to go, I have calculated that at current prices if I could do nothing but purchase, that it would take an investment of around 3.2 billion dollars, warehouse with just a little bit short of a million square feet with 18 foot ceilings and close to 150 years to find, purchase, secure, catalogue, photograph and display everything. So the chances of that happening are not very high. Consequently, our goal has begun to shift toward the documentation of everything which exists today, which is still a substantially intimidating prospect but doable. In order to pave the way, it will be necessary to thin our collection. Therefore, if you want to purchase an item, send us an email. Include enough information so that we may identify the piece and include enough information about you so that we can communicate with you. No item donated to us will be sold, however the pieces, which come from our own collections, we will consider. Include in your communication the price that you are offering. Please understand, we know the value of each and every piece, so there will not be any bargains. However, for the serious collector who needs the piece to finish a project or to upgrade an existing piece, we will strongly consider a legitimate offer. So contact us if you want to express an interest, email@example.com.
The future, a pay website? Will WHRC continue to be free? This is a debate, which rings every day. The answer right now is yes. BUT, and that is a big BUT, we will not be able to remain free unless we begin to receive charitable donations from you. We have changed our web site and will be offering to you a button to press through which you can arrange to donate funds. The funds received will be used directly to pay the operating expenses of the foundation. We have over a dozen full time people and the cost is not insubstantial. If we do not receive enough in donations, then we will probably offer a kind of hybrid arrangement, where a donation will be required in order to access some of the more complex areas of the site. We hope you will help us by donating this year. Our goal is to raise $25,000. That is just a few dollars more than $2000 a month. Your help will be appreciated.
Are all of the pieces displayed by WHRC authentic? No. We wish they were. Our collection, collectors and researchers suffer from the same problems that everyone in the “Hobby” experiences. We have been the victims of intentional and unintentional fraud. Despite our best efforts to arm ourselves with knowledge and experience, even advanced scientific tools such as XRF technology, we have in the past acquired reproductions at premium prices. Consequently, on occasion, we learn, either because of our reader’s input or through other means, which pieces we thought were authentic were actually not. If we have been displaying the piece as authentic, then we will pull it down and initiate further research. If it turns out that it is authentic to something other than what we thought, we will return it to the site; however, it will bear a change of description. If it is a reproduction in all sense, we will not return it to the site. From time to time we show reproductions, but only if it is true to the example which we are exhibiting.
That is it for the wrap up of 2010. Thanks for the many hands of friendship, which have helped us so far along this exciting journey. And, lest I forget, “join us and become a part of our team.”