NY National Guard Soldier, a Tonawanda resident, will be part of National Museum of the United States Army
LATHAM, NY (12/12/2018) New York Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Nick Archibald, a Tonawanda resident, will be a permanent part of the National Museum of the United States Army when it opens to the public outside Washington, D.C. in 2020.
Archibald was one of six New York Army National Guard Soldiers who served as models for a life-sized Soldier figure that will be part of an exhibit in the museum.
There will be a total of 63 figures populating exhibits when construction on the museum finishes.
Archibald, who works full-time at New York National Guard headquarters in Latham as an assistant inspector general, posed for a figure during a Nov. 15 visit to a Brooklyn company which specializes in making museum quality figures and sculptures.
Studio EIS (pronounced ice), the Brooklyn company that specializes in making these museum exhibit figures, would normally hire actors or professional models as templates for figures, said Paul Morando, the chief of exhibits for the museum.
But real Soldiers are better, he said.
"Having real Soldiers gives the figures a level of authenticity to the scene," Morando said. "They know where their hands should be on the weapons. They know how far apart their feet should be when they are standing. They know how to carry their equipment."
Actual Soldiers can also share some insights with the people making the figures because of their field experience, Morando added.
Archibald, who joined the New York Army National Guard in 2008 deployed to Afghanistan in 2008 and to Kuwait in 2012.
The museum is under construction at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The Army Historical Foundation is leading a $200 million dollar campaign and constructing the 185,000 square-foot building through private donations. The Army is providing the 84-acre site, constructing the roads and infrastructure, and the interior exhibit elements that transform a building into a museum.
The museum will tell the story of over 240 years of Army history through stories of American Soldiers.
The figures of the six New York National Guard Solders - Archibald, Capt. Kevin Vilardo, Maj. Robert Freed, Chaplain (Maj.) James Kim, 2nd Lt. Sam Gerdt, Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Morrison, and Sgt. 1st Class Nick Archibald--will populate two exhibits from two different eras.
Archibald served as the model for a World War Two infantry Soldier who will be climbing down a cargo net into a landing craft preparing to assault the Normandy beaches on D-Day.
The landing craft is so big that it, and three other macro artifacts, were pre-positioned in their space within the museum in 2017 - the museum is being built around them.
The process of turning a Soldier into a life-sized figure starts by posing the Soldier in the position called for in the tableau and taking lots of photos. This allows the artists to observe how the person looks and record it.
When Archibald showed up at the Studio EIS facility they put him to work climbing a cargo net like Soldiers used to board landing craft during World War II.
"They were taking pictures of me actually climbing a net with a backpack on and a huge model rifle over my shoulder," he recalled. "That was uncomfortable because I was actually on a net hanging off this wall."
The Studio EIS experts take pictures of the model from every angle and take measurements as well, Morando explained.
Next, a model of the individuals face is made. A special silicone based material is used for the cast. The model's nostrils are kept clear so the subject can breathe.
The Soldiers were told what their character was supposed to be doing and thinking and asked to make the appropriate facial gestures.
The material also warmed up.
The material got so warm that he started sweating, Archibald said. "As they did the upper portion (of his body) I got pretty toasty in there," he said.
Once their facial casts were done the Studio EIS experts cast the rest of their body. The Soldiers put on tight shorts and stockings with Vaseline smeared over body parts and posed in the positions needed.
Props helped them maintain the position for the 20 to 30 minutes it takes for the casting material to set.
Archibald was positioned on blocks so that his body looked like it was climbing and they used this small little stool supporting my butt." He also had to clench his hand around rods to look like he was gripping a rope.
Next the artists will sculpt sections into a complete figure, dress and accessorize, and paint precise details on the face and skin; crafting it to humanistic and historical perfection.
These lifelike Soldier figures will help visitors understand what it looked like on D-Day, Morando said.
The New York Soldiers got their chance to be part of the new, state of the art museum because of Justin Batt, the director of the Harbor Defense Museum at Fort Hamilton.
He and Morando had worked together before, Batt said.
Morando needed Soldiers to pose and wanted to use Soldiers from New York to keep down costs. So he turned to Batt to help find ten people. Batt in turned reached out to New York National Guard Soldiers assigned to Fort Hamilton.
The museum was looking for Soldiers with certain looks, heights, and in some cases race.
For the D-Day scene they needed Soldiers of certain height and weight who would look like Soldiers from the 1940s.
The six New York Guardsmen taking part in the figure making were perfect, Batt said. Not only did they look the part but also they all have tremendous military records, he added.
Being part of the National Museum of the United States Army is an honor, the National Guard Soldiers said. While their names won't be acknowledged on the exhibits, it will be great to know they are part of telling the Army story, they all agreed.
"I think it is pretty cool that they would get Soldiers to model as Soldiers," Archibald said. "Part of it is an honor to be able to bring people down there and point at the exhibit and say that is actually me there."
Page Last Modified: Dec 13, 2018