PROVIDENCE — 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, 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.
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. “There’s a real need, so what they’re doing is important.”
There is a WWII museum in Natick, Massachusetts, the International Museum of World War II. A spokeswoman said they they primarily host Massachusetts schools.