Filmmaker to open WWII education center in Rhode Island

In this June 22, 2018 photo, various uniforms from World War II are assembled with other personal items and artifacts which are destined for a planned World War II education center in Wakefield, R.I. Tim Gray, founder of the nonprofit World War II Foundation, plans to open the center in September. (AP Photo/Jennifer McDermott)
In this June 22, 2018 photo, canteens from World War II sit on a shelf beside a helmet that was worn by an employee on the film lot of Warner Bros. Studios following the attack on Pearl Harbor. They are among numerous items destined for a planned WWII education center in Wakefield, R.I. Tim Gray, founder of the nonprofit World War II Foundation, plans to open the center in September. (AP Photo/Jennifer McDermott)
In this June 22, 2018 photo, filmmaker Tim Gray looks over maps from D-Day, which are among numerous artifacts destined for a planned World War II education center in Wakefield, R.I. Gray, founder of the nonprofit World War II Foundation, plans to open the center in September. (AP Photo/Jennifer McDermott)
In this June 22, 2018 photo, filmmaker Tim Gray looks at books, medals and other items from World War II, some of the numerous items destined for a planned WWII education center in Wakefield, R.I. Gray, founder of the nonprofit World War II Foundation, plans to open the center in September. (AP Photo/Jennifer McDermott)
In this June 22, 2018 photo, filmmaker Tim Gray points to a helmet with severe battle damage from shrapnel and a bullet during World War II. The helmet are among numerous artifacts destined for a planned WWII education center in Wakefield, R.I. Gray, founder of the nonprofit World War II Foundation, plans to open the center in September. (AP Photo/Jennifer McDermott)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A filmmaker who shares the stories of World War II veterans is opening an education center in Rhode Island so students can learn about the war and meet the men who fought in it.

Tim Gray, founder of the nonprofit World War II Foundation, has made 21 documentaries and amassed a large collection of artifacts, including uniforms, helmets, documents, flags, maps and other items used in battle.

He has leased space in Wakefield, Rhode Island, and plans to open in September.

Gray envisions the center as a place where students and researchers can watch the films, hold the artifacts and talk to veterans he'll invite there.

World War II veteran Richard Fazzio said he wants to tell students about his experiences. The 93-year-old Fazzio piloted a boat that brought some of the first troops to Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasion.

"I want to let them know what a great country this is and how a lot of people died to keep it free," said Fazzio, of Woonsocket, Rhode Island.

Gray said it will be an interactive way to preserve veterans' stories so future generations don't forget their sacrifices. He'll lead discussions about the films, the collection and veterans' oral histories.

"We really want them to experience the personal side of war and what it cost people," he said. "It's taking the best of what other museums do and combining it with what we do."

Gemma Birnbaum, at the National WWII Museum, said lessons from the war about global citizenship, empathy and immigration are relevant today. Birnbaum, director of the media and education center at the museum in New Orleans, said she's familiar with the foundation's plans in Rhode Island.

"They have an ability to reach a community that doesn't necessarily have access to these stories and this type of history," she said Friday. "There's a real need, so what they're doing is important."

There is a WWII museum in Natick, Massachusetts. A spokeswoman at the International Museum of World War II says they primarily host Massachusetts schools.

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