National VA History Center planned for Dayton closer to becoming reality



The next stage in the long process of bringing the National VA History Center to Dayton began with an advertisement on

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Wednesday posted an advertisement for a Washington-based supervisory historian whose primary purpose would be “to develop and direct the Department’s inaugural VA history office and archives.

The position would also have “supervisory and managerial authorities” over the to-be-created VA History Archives in Dayton and VA Records Management Officers, according to the post. The position would pay between $137,849 and $166,500 per year.

Those who fought for to locate the VA History Center in Dayton characterized the move as an important first step in making the center – expected to be located in two historic buildings on the VA Center’s West Dayton campus – a reality.

Initial plans would house the agency’s archives in the national headquarters facility, built in 1871 and the clubhouse, built in 1881. The two buildings would undergo an extensive renovation as part of the plan, with money coming from both the federal government and the private sector.

“This is a positive step forward that shows the VA’s commitment to a VA History Center,” said Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton. “I will continue to work with VA officials to ensure this project moves forward.”

“The creation of a Chief Historian position at the National VA History Center is the next key step in bringing this center to Dayton,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, who said it was a “huge honor” that Dayton was selected. “The Dayton VA Medical Center has a distinguished 150-year history serving Ohio veterans and now people from around the country will come to the Miami Valley to learn about those who’ve served.”

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said the development makes the project closer to becoming a reality.

“Ohio is home to nearly one million veterans and there is no better location for the VA National Archives than Dayton. I’m hoping this brings us one step closer to making it a reality.”

Michael Gessel, vice president of the Dayton Development Coalition, a civic organization which advocates for Dayton region, said the hiring will mark the next stage of a process that began in 2006. He said though the position is currently D.C.-based, community leaders expect it will eventually be based in Dayton.

“This is the beginning of implementing a process that began more than a decade ago to create a history office for the Department of Veterans Affairs which ultimately will be located in Dayton,” he said.

The archive would house archival records, memorabilia, artwork, architectural and archaeological artifacts, aiming to tell the story of the VA’s role in medicine.

The Dayton site was one of three original VA sites that opened just after the end of the Civil War, and the bulk of the Dayton VA campus was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2012. Currently, the National Archives host many of the military records dating back to before the Revolutionary War.

The state’s two senators as well as Turner and Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Troy, wrote VA Secretary Robert Wilkie last year to urge Wilkie to hire a historian, noting that the community had already raised more than $65,000 toward the project.

That letter urged the VA to move forward with the hiring process, arguing that VA rules required that the VA hire someone in order to keep the community involved in the process.

“Beginning this formal process ensures that the community’s efforts are not reduced in scope, and that they can continue to prioritize funds essential for establishing the VA History Center,” the group wrote.

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