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The National World War II Museum in New Orleans has broken ground on a 150-foot-tall signature canopy structure at its 6-acre Warehouse District campus.

Museum officials hope the $10 million structure, known as the Canopy of Peace, will become an iconic piece of the New Orleans skyline, symbolizing a protective canopy over the soldiers that fought during the war.

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A rendering of the completed $325 million campus expansion with the Canopy of Peace (The National WWII Museum/Special to The Pulse)

The funding for the project comes from a $20 million gift from Joy and Donald “Boysie” Bollinger, the former chairman and CEO of South Louisiana’s Bollinger Shipyards Inc.

“Being close to the story of World War II made me a lot more humble,” Bollinger recalled after a trip to Normandy while serving as vice chairman of the museum board. “What these people did for us is mindboggling. I worked every day of my life with two uncles that fought in the Pacific, neither one had ever mentioned a word about it. It forced me to go sit with them and make them tell me their stories. I never would have had that experience without being involved here.”

Bollinger’s $20 million donation is the largest single gift the museum has ever received — and among the largest non-profit gift in U.S. history. The funds will provide at least $6 million toward other exhibits and $4 million to the museum’s endowment fund.

“The Canopy will symbolize the hope and promise unleashed by the end of WWII hostilities,” said museum officials. “Commanding attention on the New Orleans skyline, the structure will also unify the Museum’s diverse campus in the enduring spirit of the wartime slogan, “We’re all in this together!”

The structure will hang 150 feet above the ground, and will be 448 feet long and 126 feet wide. The canopy materials will consist of panels made of a Teflon-coated fiberglass membrane to provide shade and symbolize a sail. The panels will double as a screen upon which illuminated lighting and messages can be projected from below.

In addition to providing much needed shade and unifying the two buildings over which it straddles, it’s meant to symbolize a protective canopy over the soldiers that fought during the war.

The museum, which opened in 2000, embarked on a campaign to raise $325 million by the end of the decade. Bollinger’s $20 million donation brings that fundraising effort to $245 million.

The canopy is scheduled to be complete in 2017.

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