First Division Museum Reopens at Cantigny Park

The First Division Museum at Cantigny Park in Wheaton reopened its doors to the public on Saturday, August 26. The Museum began a transformational update last fall including the addition of “Duty First,” an all-new gallery focusing on the modern (post-Vietnam) history of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division.

The new experience features new and updated exhibits plus cutting-edge storytelling techniques. The “Duty First” gallery occupies the 2,500-square-foot space formerly used for temporary exhibits and programs. Inside it, visitors will learn about the different types of missions performed by the 1st Infantry Division today with the information, in many cases, delivered by the voices of military veterans. Interactive exhibits apply virtual reality technology that is sure to leave a lasting impression.

The First Division Museum’s other major gallery is “First in War.” This space, thoroughly updated with new media and more artifacts, will be familiar to previous visitors. Powerful immersive experiences remain intact, such as walking through a WWI trench, onto Omaha Beach and through the jungles of Vietnam.

As before, the compelling record of the Division is presented in the context of broader history, inviting Museum visitors to engage in the tough issues of war and peace.

The Museum’s grand reopening coincides with the 100th anniversary of the famed military unit known as the “Big Red One.” It became the first division of the U.S. Army in June 1917, assembling to fight in France in World War I. Col. Robert R. McCormick served in the Division during the Great War, participating in the successful Battle of Cantigny in 1918. Returning after the war, Col. McCormick re-named his farm Cantigny in honor of those who served in the battle, and on his death in 1955 left Cantigny Park in trust for the enjoyment of the people of Illinois.

“There is no better way to commemorate the centennial of the First Division,” said David Hiller, president and CEO of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. “We know how Colonel McCormick revered the Big Red One, and all the men and women who served in the armed forces. He’d be pleased that this wonderful Museum honors veterans and all those who serve.” The renovated Museum provides a comprehensive telling of the Big Red One’s service since the Vietnam era and allows for future updates.

Luci Creative led the exhibit development, design and production management for the project. Ravenswood Studio fabricated and installed the exhibits. Northern Light Productions, Unified Field, Creative Technologies and Brave New Pictures developed the interactive and media content. Chicago’s Pepper Construction served as general contractor.

The 11 vintage U.S. Army tanks outside the First Division Museum also reopened on August 26. All of them have been cleaned and painted with historically accurate markings. Tank park renovation includes new plantings, walkways, seating and lighting. The grand staircase and entry plaza outside the Museum’s front doors are new, along with other hardscape details surrounding the building. A picnic shelter south of the Museum is nearing completion.

The First Division Museum’s reopening represents a key early milestone in Cantigny’s ongoing revitalization effort, Project New Leaf. The five-year project, funded by the McCormick Foundation, includes major updates to Cantigny Park’s gardens, grounds and facilities.

At Cantigny and in the community, the First Division Museum touches thousands of people every year, making America’s military history accessible and thereby strengthening our democracy and its defense. The Museum is a tribute to all who served and continue to serve to protect our nation’s freedom.

More information is online at and

Preview Photos

Entrance to the Duty First Exhibit

Medal of Honor Display

A piece of the Berlin wall

Guests interact with new exhibits


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