Giant walk-through eyeball to headline science center at Aviation Museum

LOWER TOWNSHIP, N.J. (WPVI) -- It's a museum for military members who once kept a vigilant eye in the sky. Soon, it will be home to an enormous eyeball that you just have to see to believe.

"Every day I walk in here, I get a feeling of euphoria from what's happening," said Dr. Joseph Salvatore, the founder of the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum.

Dr. Salvatore served in the Medical Corps with the United States Army during the Korean War.

"I got an opportunity to see the results of war," said the retired orthopedic surgeon. That life-changing experience inspired his later work as a preservationist.

Dr. Salvatore and his wife purchased the Naval Air Station Wildwood building in 1997 for just a dollar. Otherwise, it would have been torn down. Since then, they designed a museum that has attracted thousands with more than two dozen planes on display.

"We're particularly proud now, because on the second floor of this building, we are creating a science center," said Dr. Salvatore. "The premier exhibit, of course, is the eyeball."

Dr. Salvatore envisioned an attraction akin to the heart at the Franklin Institute. The Institute has worked closely with NAS Wildwood, often handing down pieces from retired exhibits. Those items will find new life with the Aviation Museum's science center, scheduled to open in late summer or early fall 2021.

Until then, handyman Bob Moser will be hard at work crafting a piece unlike any he's completed before.

"I have never made anything round this size," said Moser, who is also the Maintenance Supervisor at NAS Wildwood. "We want to do something that everyone will remember us for."

The giant sphere will be fitted with a curved television screen and interior graphics that unveil the inner workings of a real eyeball. Guests will be able to walk through the finished product as if it were a small tunnel.

Dr. Salvatore hopes the new exhibit will open eyes for children with regard to the military.

"This museum pays tribute to the 42 men who died training here during World War II," he said. "The military isn't often appreciated as much as it should be, and we hope that by preserving this hangar, they'll appreciate the military more and more."

They also hope it will help the museum soar to the attendance levels it enjoyed before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NAS Wildwood Aviation Museum is currently open five days per week. Starting April 1st, it will be open seven days per week from 10:00am to 4:00pm. Its first floor contains a showroom of military planes. The second floor, which will house the giant eyeball, is currently under construction.

To learn more, visit their website.

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