Updated on 13 March 2023
Reading time: 4 minutes
The Airborne Museum in Sainte-Mère-Eglise is a major place of remembrance in Normandy, dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of the D-Day landings on June, 6th 1944. In 2023, the museum launches exclusive tours of its Reserve Collection for a deeper understanding of the largest military operations ever staged, with a particular focus on the airborne assault into Normandy. A unique experience allowing an emotional reflection on the events that took place here almost 80 years ago and remembering those who fought to protect our future.
A DEEP INSIGHT INTO THE AIRBORNE DIVISIONS OF JUNE, 6th 1944
Many years on yet Normandy still forms an emotional hub around the price of freedom. Every time we visit the region, new exhibitions are inspired by the incredible stories of courage, toil and sacrifice. On our last trip to la Manche, we booked the exclusive tour of the Reserve Collection of the Airborne Museum in Sainte-Mère-Eglise, led by Eric Belloc, the curator of the collection. This new tour launched in 2023 completes the self-guided tour of the C-47 and Neptune buildings and adds a meaningful approach of the state of mind of soldiers on the evening of D-Day on the 6th of June 1944 and on the days that followed, known as the Battle of Normandy.
THE C-47 BUILDING’S STRIKING SCENOGRAPHY
Although we had already visited the museum in the past, this new display and scenography inaugurated in October 2021 provided enormous amounts of information in a multitude of ways. The legendary C-47 military transport aircraft – USAAF series 42-1OO825 – used in the airborne operation of June, 6th 1944 – remains the centerpiece of the exhibition which was redesigned to incorporate many immersive elements: deployed parachutes, hanging mannequins, statues of real soldiers from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, rifles and other artefacts that can be weighed and touched. Being equipped with a Histopad, a touch tablet with hyper-realistic graphics, provides a unique immersive museum experience, allowing visitors to take an active role in exploring history rather than simply bearing witness.
THE NEPTUNE BUILDING AND THE TARGETS OF THE 82ND AB
By taking an in-depth look at the museography, going through the cockpit, hearing the noise of the engine, visitors get under the skin of the soldiers of Operation Neptune and can connect emotionally. The low theatrical lighting, the atmosphere and the horrifying numbers help demonstrate the true cost of D-Day: 821 aircrafts “C47” took part in the airborne operations over the Cotentin and dropped 13,348 men from the 82nd and 101st division with their equipment. This carefully curated exhibition in such a place for remembrance offers a fascinating – if sombre – insight into the lives of those who have been caught in the crossfire of this conflict.
AN EXCLUSIVE VISIT OF THE RESERVE COLLECTION
After touring the museum at our own pace, we were privileged to explore the Reserve Collection in a small group of 6 for around 30 minutes. While technically speaking, the Reserve Collection space is a collections storage area rather than a gallery, it provides a great opportunity to get together with the curator and ask any question we have in mind without the formality of a traditional tour, such as the weight of equipment, the short distances of the parachute jumps and all kind of practical enquiries we may have. Eric shared fascinating stories, facts and research behind the different authentic pieces and objects exhibited in the storeroom: clothes, shoes, helmets and bags meticulously arranged and labelled offer a sense of intimacy with the soldiers and enables visitors to understand the war in all its emotional layers and complexity.
Our visit concluded with a peaceful walk through the garden of remembrance with the plaques bearing the names honoring fallen soldiers. A place of rest and meditation putting not only the scale of the human loss into perspective, but also addressing the fragility of peace in the world we live in.
On 6 June 1944, Sainte-Mère-Eglise was the second town to be liberated in mainland France during Operation Overlord. Soldier John Steele became famous for hanging from the town’s bell tower, while on the ground, bitter and deadly fighting marked the beginning of the conquest of freedom and peace.
14 rue Eisenhower
+33 (0)2 33 41 41 35
From March 2023, Reserve Collection tours are held every 3rd Friday of each month.
Adult: 14.90 € (museum visit + reserves)
Children: 10 € (visit of the museum + reserves)
4 people minimum – 12 people maximum per group for the tour of the Reserve Collection
All of the above information is subject to change