COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The National Infantry Museum has taken a top prize from a national publication, and took the time to host a victory party to thanks those who voted day after day.
From new soldiers to elderly veterans to civilian residents in the Valley, the National Infantry Museum spent Friday morning thanking all their guests and those who helped them be crowned the best free museum in the country by USA Today.
The award could lead to an increase in donations, which would mean more projects, displays, and growth.
The NIM took no. 1 in the Best Free Museum in the country in USA Today's 10 Best Readers' Choice 2016 voting. Voting began in early August and ended on Aug. 29.
"Throughout the month of voting, the National Infantry Museum and Cleveland Museum of Art fought back and forth for first place," a NIM press release said. "A last-minute surge of support for the NIM in the remaining hours of the contest put the museum back on top."
The NIM beat out other museums in New York, Minneapolis, Seattle, Cleveland and St. Louis - museums selected by world-class travel experts.
The top 10 winners in the category Best Free Museum are as follows:
- National Infantry Museum & Soldier Center - Columbus, GA.
- Cleveland Museum of Art - Cleveland
- National Museum of the U.S. Air Force - Dayton, Oh
- Saint Louis Art Museum - St. Louis
- Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art - Bentonville, AR.
- Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art - Kansas City, MO.
- Frye Art Museum - Seattle
- Minneapolis Institute of Art - Minneapolis
- The Museum at FIT - New York
- American Computer & Robotics Museum - Bozeman, MT.
NIM opened in 2009 and has been a popular site for families visiting loved ones at neighboring Fort Benning and visitors across the nation.
The 190,000-square-foot National Infantry Museum contains a collection of nearly 30,000 priceless artifacts documenting the Infantry story, which dates to 1775.
Its signature attraction, the Last 100 Yards, features life-size vignettes of eight of the most important battles in Infantry history.
"I can't get over how passionate our visitors have been about making sure we won this award," said National Infantry Museum Foundation President COL (Ret) Greg Camp. "They were excited to tell us that they were voting every day and they made sure their friends voted, too. We can't thank everybody enough for their support and enthusiasm. This is a real feather in the cap for Columbus, the region, and the entire state of Georgia."
The win means the museum will be featured in USA Today's online and print travel sections. The Foundation hopes it will not only increase awareness and boost visitation but also will generate ongoing financial support for the non-profit organization.