An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : Features : Display
NEWS | Jan. 20, 2016

'Priceless' history: Fort Eustis' historical expert bids farewell to JBLE

By Senior Airman Breonna Veal 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

As passersby stroll through history at the U.S. Army Transportation Museum to view displays and learn about the various roles of vessels, armored vehicles and small artifacts that date back to the Army's establishment in 1775, retired Army Lt. Col. David Hanselman,  is the architect behind their journey.

As the director of the museum, Hanselman is responsible for not only the 65 exhibits within the 120,000 square foot facility, but the exhibit design and artifacts, which he hopes will educate Soldiers and the public about Army history.

Throughout his 14 years working at the museum, Hanselman has had the opportunity to not only see groups ranging from Junior ROTC cadets, to seasoned and decorated officers through the life-size history book, but veterans who lived the exhibits.

"Hosting the veterans here has been my favorite part about working here," said Hanselman. "The veterans come in for a few days and I see [their] gratitude in not just their words but their actions and their expressions. They spend hours hovering in one gallery because that is their war. Then they look at you and your staff and say, 'Thank you for not forgetting who we are and what we did.' For them that war was their life event."

Meeting veterans, young privates and new lieutenants is just the beginning of Hanselman's love for working at the U.S. Army Transportation Museum. His love for history dates back to his childhood, when Hanselman would wear a toy helmet, carry a toy rifle and have the neighborhood children follow him in formation. At the age of six he began his curating skills when he began collecting World War II uniforms. 

Now, that the neighborhood commander cares for an official museum, Hanselman said he puts a personal touch to each gallery, as he builds each from scratch with photographs he took in deployed locations, actual pieces of vehicles he and his crew have brought back from deployments and stories told by the Soldiers that were there.

While the director has a passion for the museum, which sometimes keeps him in the office nearly 24 hours at a time, Hanselman explained he wouldn't be able to organize each artifact, put galleries together or write every piece of information in the museum without his five coworkers.

"This is a team effort," said Hanselman. "When people come into the museum, they can't fathom how six people do what we do here. There's a saying that goes around in here and it's that 'this job is a 'crime of passion.' Folks in the museum profession in general have a passion for what they do and that's why they do it."

After spending over a decade of building bonds and exhibits, Hanselman's time at the museum is coming to a close. Taking a position at the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning, Georgia, Hanselman only hopes that his replacement is ready for the challenge and doesn't treat the job as a "9-to-5".

"I want my replacement to have a forward-thinking mindset here," said Hanselman. "[I want them] to go out to the warzone to get artifacts, if accessible; wear their working shoes and prepare to get their hands dirty."

The desire and drive behind military history goes beyond his time in the service or his childhood. If Hanselman could describe history in one word, it would be, "Priceless."

"I cannot put a value on the amount of history that is placed in the museum," said the director. "How do you value historical significance? You can't. There are one of a kind pieces that do not exist anywhere else in the world except right here, and how can you put a value on that?"