The National Cold War Center has received a $400,000 grant from the Division of Arkansas Heritage Cultural Institutions Trust Fund. The award was announced last week at the Arkansas Department of Heritage headquarters in Little Rock.
“We are honored to be among the Cultural Institutions Trust Fund recipients,” said Mary Gay Shipley, chair of the NCWC organization. “Our project is in an early but critical stage of development, and we appreciate the vote of confidence from Arkansas Heritage. We also are proud to be in the company of other museums who are working so hard to preserve essential pieces of Arkansas history.”
The grant was requested to cover exterior improvements and enhancements of the Ready Alert Facility that still stands at the former Blytheville Air Force Base, which during the Cold War, served the U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command.
“Our museum is inspired by the land on which it will stand,” Shipley said. “We were fifth on the Russian “hit list” throughout the Cold War years because of the significant role BAFB played.”
Those eligible to receive Arkansas Cultural Institutions Trust Fund dollars are Arkansas nonprofit cultural institutions open to the public or in the process of opening a new or modified facility with plans for a major capital expenditure of $7 million or more.
Shipley noted the National Cold War Center will feature the Ready Alert Facility as its primary exhibit.
“Crews were harbored in the alert shack, ready to respond to any Russian activity, with orders to be airborne within 15 minutes,” said Shipley.
The Center will also tell the Cold War story by constructing a museum building and presenting static aircraft displays like the B-52 bomber.
Work is underway on the restoration and renovation of the Ready Alert exhibit, and the National Cold War Center is targeting a 2025 groundbreaking for the new structure. Cost estimates to build the Center have ranged as high as $20 million.