The story of the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum began in the year 1986. It was in this year that the soldiers who had trained at Selman Field, as well as their descendants, had their first Selman Field reunion. It was at this reunion that the decision to work in collaboration with the City of Monroe to create a repository of memorabilia and artifacts associated with Selman Field was made.
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The museum, named the Aviation Historical Museum of Louisiana at the time of its founding, opened to the public in the year 2000. Back then, the aviation museum only occupied around a third of the exhibit space that it does today. However, both the Chennault Museum of today and that of the past have called the same structure home, situated at the intersection of Central Avenue and Kansas Lane. This building that houses the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum is one of few remaining buildings once used by the Selman Field School.
Since the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum was established, the scope of the museum has quickly grown to include more of Northeast Louisiana’s rich military and aviation history. The museum honors all of the veterans of the United States, and consists of various exhibits covering all of the wars the country has played a role in, from World War I up to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
From the year 2005 through 2015, the Chennault Museum was part of the state museum system of the state of Louisiana. Unfortunately, due to crippling cuts to the state budget, the museum had to increasingly rely on fundraising efforts of the board of the Friends of the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum, as well as help from volunteer and community efforts, for their operating costs. More cuts to the budget in the beginning of 2015 would cause the Chennault Museum to only be able to be open for visitors one day out of the week.
The decision was made that the museum’s best course of action to ensure their operations would be to completely separate the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum from the state. This change happened later that year, in July of 2015. The Chennault Museum is now entirely privately funded.
Visitors will find several exploration stations throughout the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum. These special interactive exhibits feature objects that can be held and looked at up-close by guests. The exploration stations are designed with children in mind, providing hands-on, fun experiences. The museum currently has a station for military gear, and is in the process of adding a space station, maritime ship knot tying station, and a World War I artifact station.
The Chennault Aviation and Military Museum also features several exhibits focused on particular individuals in military and aviation history. Such individuals include B.A. “Gus” Petterson, Kitty Degree, Malcolm S. Biedenharn, and James Albert Noe, Sr., and General Claire L. Chennault. There are also several vehicles and aircraft on display within the museum.
701 Kansas Lane, Monroe, LA, Phone: 318-362-5540