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Memorial Hall Museum offering free admission to active duty soldiers, families until Labor Day

DEERFIELD — It’s difficult to separate the history of a nation from the service of its armed forces and, starting last week, the Memorial Hall Museum in Old Deerfield plans to bring the two even closer together.

As a participant in the National Endowment for the Arts’ Blue Star Museums program, Memorial Hall will join over 2,000 other museums nationwide in offering free admission to active duty military personnel and their families until Labor Day.

The program is designed to give the families an opportunity to learn about the history of the nation and the cultural heritage of new communities that they find themselves in due to a military move. It is a collaboration between the NEA, the U.S. Department of Defense and Blue Star Families, a group formed by military spouses in 2009 to raise the awareness of the challenges facing many military families.

During World Wars I and II, families who had a member serving overseas displayed a blue star in their window. Those who had lost someone changed the star to gold. The Blue Star Mothers Club was founded during World War II.

“We are very pleased to have this opportunity to thank the members of our military and their families,” said Tim Neumann, the executive director of the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, in a press release. “Blue Star is a great service program for our museum and very appropriate, given our history.”

According to Neumann, Deerfield’s military history extends back to its founding in 1673. At that time, every able-bodied man was required to join the local militia, which required regular drills with a gun and other equipment provided by the settler.

In 1704, the town was famously raided by the French and Native American forces during Queen Anne’s War. Neumann said numerous artifacts from that raid became the center of the museum’s collection when it opened in 1880. The museum is also home to hundreds of antiques from the Civil War era.

The offer includes members of the National Guard and Reserve, and a complete list of participating museums can be found at Memorial Hall Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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