SAN BERNARDINO - For the veterans at the new Norton Air Force Base Museum, it's all about the stuff.
Not just any stuff - to be sure.
But artifacts, photographs and memorabilia from the air base when it was in its heyday - stuff related to the base from when it opened 50 years ago until it closed in 1994.
On Friday - in preparation for a March grand opening - museum staff members welcomed the arrival of more glass display cases to augment cases already lining the walls.
Only problem is - they're empty.
Bob Edwards, the museum's executive director, said the historical items from the base illustrate the story the museum are trying to tell.
"Initially, our concern was we'd end up with stuff and no way to display it," said Edwards, a 20-year Air Force veteran who spent his first four years at Norton.
"Now I have the means to display it but I don't have any stuff," he said.
Edwards credited the array of glass display cases to Bonnie Seath, manager of Redlands' Citrus Plaza Hallmark store that recently went out of business.
As president of the museum's nine-member board, Edwards is overseeing completion of the 2,000-square-foot space, which will include a Tuskegee Airmen exhibit, a history of the base, posters depicting specific events, relics, artifacts, stories and videos.
"Anyone who comes to the museum - they will understand the evolution of Norton, the base and how it evolved all the way to closing," Edwards said.
Retired Air Force flight engineer Ed Jeffries, 84, head of the 140-member 63/445 Veterans Group and a museum board member, has spent years trying to get the fuselage of a C-141 jet cargo plane as a memorial to the base and those who served there.
After hitting numerous roadblocks, the old "crewdogs" of the 63rd Military Airlift Wing learned the airplane they were vying for had been chopped and sold for scrap metal.
Now, a model of that aircraft crowns a brick memorial at the entrance to the museum. The memorial will be dedicated when the last of the bricks is in place, Jeffries said.
An important part in the region's history, Norton AFB employed 10,000 military personnel and 15,000 civilians.
Catherine Pritchett is senior assistant to the executive director of San Bernardino International Airport and the Inland Valley Development Agency.
"Volunteers and artifacts are what we need now," she said. "For people who have these artifacts, it's sentimental to be letting them go, but they're going to a worthy cause so we can tell the story and share it with others."
Reach Michel via email, find her on Twitter @michelnolan, or call her at 909-386-3859.