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Guide to U.S. Naval History
Organizations, Programs, and Resources

Chapter 2: U.S. Government Naval Historical Organizations

Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED)

Office of the Historian and Navy Medicine Magazine (Med-09H)
Bureau of Medicine and Surgery
2300 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20372-5300
Voice: (202) 762-3244
Fax: (202) 762-3380
Web site:

The mission of the office is to preserve and record the experiences of the Navy Medical Department's past and present. The functions of the office include producing Navy Medicine magazine, an informative six-issue-per-year publication about medicine and medical history; acting as a reference desk for the Navy Medical Department and the public; functioning as curator of the Old Navy Observatory, which once occupied the current BUMED headquarters; and maintaining the Navy Medical Department's only historical library and archives containing books, correspondence, photographs dating from the 19th century; and biographies of Navy medical officers covering the years 1890-1970

Oral History Program

The history office conducts interviews with first-hand witnesses of important periods and events in the history of the Navy Medical Department. The office has completed over 300 oral histories with such notable individuals as former Navy physician Dr. Henry Heimlich, developer of the technique for expelling foreign material blocking the trachea; members of the 6th Naval Beach Battalion who stormed the beaches of Normandy on 6 June 1944; and Captain James M. Young, a White House physician who cared for Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

Navy Medicine at War Series

The history office is producing a documentary film series based on historian Jan K. Herman's book Battle Station Sick Bay. The series details the World War II experiences of Navy physicians, nurses, dentists, and hospital corpsmen.

Office of the Curator of Ship Models

Curator of Ship Models (Code 301)
Naval Surface Warfare Center
Carderock Division
9500 MacArthur Boulevard
West Bethesda, MD 20817-5700
Voice: (301) 227-1140
Fax: (301) 227-5137
Web site:

The office maintains, preserves, studies, and displays the Naval Sea Systems Command’s collection of more than 2,000 historic, museum-type ship models, valued at over $500 million. The collection consists primarily of models of U.S. Navy ships, 1813 to the present, with most models being contemporaneous with the vessels depicted.

The office supports the acquisition of exhibition models of new ships and conserves existing models; conducts curatorial studies of the collection, individual objects, and ships; and is responsible for ship model displays at over 400 different sites, including federal, foreign, state and local museums, and federal offices. The professional staff applies artifact conservation processes to about 120 models yearly and creates several new models each year. Although the office keeps detailed paper and electronic records and photographs of each model, recording the acquisition, maintenance, and display of each one, it does not retain ship plans.

Established at the David Taylor Model Basin in 1945 and closely allied to the ship acquisition process, the Office of the Curator of Ship Models is jointly sponsored by the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, the Naval Historical Center, and Naval Sea Systems Command. It provides a unique, highly skilled, and specialized professional service Navy-wide and is not attached to any single museum. The service is highlighted in scholarly articles, technical reports, media interviews, and presentations before wide audiences.

Office of Naval Research, Naval Research Laboratory

Office of the Historian
NRL History Office
Code 5204
Bldg. 222, Rm. 269
Washington, DC 20375-5320
Voice: (202) 767-4263
Fax: (202) 404-8681
Web site:

The NRL History Office provides multi-functional public history services to the Laboratory and the historical community. Services include conducting research and writing on the Laboratory's scientific history and accomplishments; maintaining a history reference collection available to Laboratory staff and other researchers that details the administrative and scientific history of NRL; running an active oral history program; offering consulting services on the preservation of Laboratory archival records and artifacts; providing varied support services to Laboratory administration; and responding to internal Laboratory and external scholarly historical reference queries.

Oral History Program

The staff members conduct oral interviews with important laboratory administrators and scientists, transcribe and edit the interviews, and maintain them as part of a reference collection on Laboratory history. The archive holds more than four-dozen interviews, primarily with NRL scientists and administrators who have delineated their professional careers and the institutional development of the Laboratory. The collection contains interviews with scientists such as Robert Page, William Guthrie, and Leo Young (early radar); E.O. Hulburt, John Sanderson, and Tom Giallorenzi (optics and Laboratory administration); Alan Berman and Tim Coffey (scientific research administration); Herbert Friedman (space astronomy); and Peter Wilhelm and Robert Easton (satellite engineering and development). Most interviews are transcribed, and access requirements vary. 

U.S. Marine Corps History and Museums Division

Web site:

The History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, maintains a library, museum, historical archives, reference section, and oral history, military music, art, and photographic collections.

The Historical Branch publishes a wide variety of historical works, ranging from pamphlets, monographs, and occasional papers to case-bound histories. These works provide accounts of Marine Corps planning, operational, logistical, developmental, and administrative activities.

Located on the first floor of the Historical Center, the Marine Corps Museum illustrates the Corps' role in American history through chronological displays of uniforms, weapons and other military equipage, graphics, contemporary art, and documents. A separate gallery features special temporary exhibits of Marine Corps art or martial artifacts.

The Library contains approximately 40,000 volumes concentrating on military and naval history, Marine Corps history, and amphibious warfare.

The Archives Section maintains Marine Corps operational records, which include approximately 4,000 cubic feet of plans, command diaries, command chronologies, and after action reports. Also included are trip reports by former Commandants and Assistant Commandants, records from the General Officer Symposium, and certain board reports. Records dating from 1798 to 1945 have been accessioned by the National Archives.

The Reference Section has collected a large body of material on Marine Corps topics and has divided it into subject, biographical, geographical, and unit files. These files cover the entire span of Marine Corps history and include reports, documents, newspaper and magazine clippings, histories, and photographs. Of special interest are the biographical files on over 5,000 Marines. In addition, this section maintains microfilm copies of muster rolls and unit diaries for the war periods between 1798 and 1865 and for all years between 1893 and 1964.

The Art Collection consists of approximately 7,000 sketches, paintings, prints, posters, and sculptures related to Marine Corps history, especially during the Vietnam War period.

The Oral History Collection holds interviews with distinguished retired Marines and participants of all ranks in historical events, taped presentations, briefings, debriefings, speeches, and similar "spoken history." The collection consists of approximately 13,000 items covering virtually all aspects of 20th- and 21st-century Marine Corps history.

The Military Music Collection is especially strong in two areas, the works of John Philip Sousa and the history of the U.S. Marine Band, the "President's Own." Located at Marine Barracks Washington, 8th Street, SE, the collection contains thousands of musical scores, both printed and manuscript, including Sousa originals.

The Marine Corps Historical Center, with the use of non-appropriated funds from the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, offers Internships, Grants, and Fellowships that include a stipend for undergraduate internships and research grants for both master's theses and doctoral dissertations The following fellowships are available: the General Lemuel C. Shepherd Jr. Memorial Dissertation Fellowship, the Lieutenant Colonel Lily H. Gridley Memorial Master’s Thesis Fellowship, and the Michael Beeler Marine Raider Fellowship.

U.S. Coast Guard

Historian's Office
U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters
2100 Second Street, SW
Washington, DC 20593-0001
Voice: 202-267-1394/2172/0948/2596
Fax: (202) 267-4309
Web site:
Hours: Mon.-Fri., 7:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m., by appointment.

The Historian's Office maintains a collection of materials that complements, and to some degree, duplicates the holdings in the National Archives. The office is also responsible for managing Coast Guard artifacts and the museum at the Coast Guard Academy. Curatorial Services offer an artifact loan program for museums needing display items. Monographs pertaining to varied topics of Coast Guard history are accessible via the Web site.

Reference Collection

The collection consists of approximately 500,000 unique and accessible images and a much smaller number of documents. Major file groups fall into the following categories:

  1. Cutter Files consist of all or part of the following: photography, brief histories, news clips, decommissioning documents, and operational highlights.
  2. Disaster/Event Files cover maritime collisions, fires at sea, oil spills, and rescues that have occurred after World War II and include photographs and marine investigations.
  3. Personnel Files provide biographical data on senior officers and famous personnel.
  4. Aviation Files, almost exclusively photography, relate to Coast Guard aircraft.
  5. Aids to Navigation Files include lighthouses and lightships.
  6. District Files hold images of depots, offices, small boat/lifesaving stations and air stations.
  7. Subject Files pertain to a diverse number of subjects maintained alphabetically and ranging from files on the Coast Guard Academy to World War II.

Another collection consists of several thousand books, pamphlets, manuals, directives, newsletters that deal specifically with the Coast Guard or are Coast Guard publications. Most significant are the old manuals and service publications.


Photographs can be ordered from the collection of the Coast Guard Historian’s Office, as detailed in the Web site or downloaded from the site. However, the office is equipped with a copy stand for researchers who wish to make copies of images using their own equipment.

Other Important Addresses

U.S. Coast Guard Museum
U.S. Coast Guard Academy
15 Mohegan Avenue
New London, CT 06320

U.S. Coast Guard Curatorial Services
7945 Fernham Lane
Forestville, MD 20747