The Airborne Museum Hartenstein is the place where the Battle of Arnhem in all its facets is presented to a broad and international audience, as an historical beacon of self-sacrifice by servicemen and civilians alike, all for the sake of freedom.
The Airborne Museum is preserving and strengthening its position through its attractive, comprehensible and recognizable narrative presentation and by creating support among the local and regional population through educational participation projects. The Battle of Arnhem Information Centre – which is located next to the John Frost bridge in the centre of Arnhem – is part of the Airborne Museum.
The Airborne museum employs a permanent staff of seven people (5.85 FTEs) and approximately 75 volunteers. It was originally established in 1949 as a collectors’ museum. It focused mainly on the military history from the perspective of the allied forces. A major 6 million euro renovation project in 2009 created a modern museum, one that also includes the German perspective and expressly introduced civilian aspects. After the renovation, visitor numbers rose from 55,000 to over 80,000 a year. Add the growing number of visitors to the Battle of Arnhem Information Centre, and the total is steadily approaching 100,000. In 2012, the museum pass was introduced. In addition to numerous events, the museum is planning on programming temporary exhibitions to encourage repeat visits. The first exhibition since the renovation of 2009 should be opened in April 2014. Moreover, the museum is aiming to attract a wider audience by presenting the stories of ‘ordinary’ people caught up in the conflict.
The Airborne Museum is housed in a Grade 1 listed building in the centre of the former battlefield. It is the only museum that has a programme and collection focused entirely on Operation Market Garden and the Battle of Arnhem. It is thus also the only museum that relates the cause and effect on civilians and servicemen of an important part of Europe´s liberation, which took six months longer because of the failure at the Battle of Arnhem. Finally, together with the Battle of Arnhem Information Centre, it is the only museum that relates this part of the local and regional history with international consequences while in being situated in the middle of it all. This internationally renowned theme attracts visitors from the all over world and plays a pivotal role in the commemoration of the events of September 1944.
The history of the Battle of Arnhem gives meaning to the values of freedom and democracy in the present day. By making the stories recognizable from the perspective of ordinary people, it is possible better to understand what these values are, their significance, and the vulnerability of freedom and democracy, and to empathize with what war and dictatorship mean in the everyday lives of ordinary people.
The museum plays an important role in a sizeable cultural recreational network. For instance, the museum monitors the quality of the Airborne Feelings Foundation, which bundles all battlefield and liberation tourist and cultural initiatives in the Arnhem–Ede–Renkum–Over Betuwe area related to Operation Market Garden. The Airborne Feelings Foundation is part of the Liberation Route Europe, a route of large boulders in the landscape following the trail of the liberators with audio material at the authentic places. The Liberation Route – an initiative set up by the museum – is currently being expanded and will one day stretch from the south of England to Berlin. The museum also contributes its expertise to the Gelders Archief, is one of Arnhem Top Attractions (along with six other important and nationally renowned cultural organizations), and is one of the ten parties comprising and administratively represented in the new sector organization for museums and commemorative centres related to the period 1940-45 (Stichting Musea en Herinneringscentra 40-45).