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

Chapter 3: U.S. Navy Museums

The U.S. Navy operates twelve museums located throughout the United States and the historic ship USS Constitution in close association with the nonprofit USS Constitution Museum in Boston, Massachusetts. These activities provide visitors and researchers an opportunity to become familiar with the rich and varied history of the U.S. Navy, its customs and traditions, and the evolution of its multifaceted mission. Exhibits, artifacts, and programs sponsored by these museums chronicle specific aspects of U.S. naval history from the American Revolution to the present.

Most of the museums receive assistance from nonprofit, non-governmental foundations. Those organizations operate museum stores and undertake other fundraising activities to support their associated museums.

Several Navy museums are members of the Council of American Maritime Museums, an organization focused on preserving America's maritime history and heritage.

United States Navy Museum
Bldg. 76
805 Kidder Breese Street, SE
Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5060
Enter at 11th & O Streets, SE gate
Voice: 202-433-4882; non-military, please call ahead before visiting
Web site:

Hours: Mon.-Fri., 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.; extended hours 1 April­Labor Day, 9:00 a.m.-5 p.m.; closed weekends and federal holidays. Free admission and parking, wheelchair accessible, museum store, guided and self-guided tours available. Accredited by the American Association of Museums.

Called one of Washington, DC's most user-friendly museums, the United States Navy Museum exhibits ship models, uniforms, medals, ordnance, photographs and fine art in the setting of the former Breech Mechanism Shop of the old Naval Gun Factory. Chronicling the U.S. Navy's history, the museum's collection includes an F-4U Corsair aircraft, better known as Big Hog; a twin mount 5-inch .38-caliber gun; and a quad-40 millimeter antiaircraft battery. The research submersible Trieste, which explored the deepest part of the world ocean, Challenger Deep off the Mariana Islands, exemplifies the U.S. Navy's role in undersea exploration. Working periscopes and klaxon in the Submarine Room are among the hands-on experiences for visitors.

The comprehensive In Harm's Way exhibit chronicles the Navy's role in World War II from the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 to Japan's surrender in 1945. Its three sections examine the Pacific and Atlantic campaigns and life on the Home Front.

In celebrating the Museum's 40th anniversary curators mounted an exhibit on three centuries of museums in the Washington Navy Yard culminating in the Navy Museum today that embodies Admiral Arleigh Burke's vision of sharing the Navy's history and traditions with the world.

Between the United States Navy Museum and the Anacostia River, an outdoor park displays 19th-century ordnance and a U.S. naval railway battery. At the east end of the park, a memorial river patrol craft (PCF), or Swift boat, recalls the Vietnam War and the sacrifices of the Swift boat Sailors who patrolled the dangerous rivers and coasts of South Vietnam.

The Cold War-era destroyer Barry (formerly DD 933), decommissioned in November 1982, came to the Washington Navy Yard for ceremonial purposes and remains a permanent display ship. Operated by Headquarters, Naval District Washington, the ship is open Mon.-Fri., 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.

USS Constitution
Charlestown Navy Yard, Building 5
Boston, MA 02129
Voice: 617-242-5670
Web site:

Hours: Tues.-Sun., guided tours 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.; winter hours, Thurs.-Sun., 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Admission free, top deck wheelchair accessible. Allow time for security check.

The frigate Constitution, first placed in commission in 1798, continues to serve the U.S. Navy two centuries later. She patrolled waters off the East Coast and in the Caribbean during the 1798-1800 Quasi-War with France, and fought at Tripoli during the Barbary Wars before earning her nickname "Old Ironsides" in the War of 1812. Moored at the Charlestown Navy Yard, operated by the National Park Service, she is the most frequently visited historic landmark in the Boston area. Active-duty sailors assigned to the ship give guided tours. For the first time since 1881, Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world, sailed under her own power in 1997, marking the 200th anniversary of her launch. Traditional tug-powered "turn-around" cruises occur in Boston harbor each Fourth of July and on other special occasions during the summer. Visit the Constitution's Web site for an up-to-dated schedule of shipboard activities.

Naval War College Museum
686 Cushing Road, Gate 1
Newport, RI 02841-1207
Voice: 401-841-4052
Web site:

Hours: Mon.-Fri., 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. year round, weekends (Jun.-Sep.) 12:00-4:00 p.m.; closed federal holidays. Non-DOD visitors must call ahead for a tour. Free admission and parking, wheelchair accessible, museum store.

Founders Hall (1820), located on the southeast perimeter of the campus of the Naval War College on Coasters Harbor Island, Newport, is home to the College Museum. A National Historic Landmark, Founders Hall is the original site of the college, the Navy's senior professional school and the place where Alfred Thayer Mahan, the second college president (1886-1889), wrote the epochal The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783.

The museum features exhibits on the history of naval warfare, particularly as studied at the Naval War College through the years, and on the naval heritage of the Narragansett Bay region. Permanent exhibits highlight the history of the college since its founding in 1884 and of other major naval commands in the Newport area, Rhode Island's unique leadership role in forming an American navy during the Revolution, and the state's naval heroes of the first half of the 19th century, Oliver Hazard Perry and Matthew Calbraith Perry.

Temporary exhibits, generally of three to six months' duration and relating to naval warfare, are prepared annually. Presentations describe background planning for and conduct of ancient and modern sea battles and make use of dioramas, maps and operational charts, models, pictures, works of art, and video representations.

U.S. Naval Academy Museum
118 Maryland Avenue
Annapolis, MD 21402-5034
Voice: 410-293-2108
Web site:

Hours: Mon.-Sat., 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Sun. 11:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day. Free admission, wheelchair accessible, U.S. Naval Institute Bookstore.

Located in Preble Hall on the Academy grounds, the U.S. Naval Academy Museum holds unique and rare naval memorabilia. The Rogers Ship Models Collection consists of 108 models of the sailing ship era dating from 1650 to 1850; seventeen are scale models built for the use of the British Admiralty. The more than 5,000 naval prints in the Beverley R. Robinson Collection depict major naval battles and ships from the 16th century to the present. Most pieces are contemporary to their subjects and represent three centuries in the art of printmaking. The Malcolm Storer Navy Medals Collection of 1,210 commemorative coin-medals, dating from as early as 254 B.C., was gathered from more than thirty countries. The U.S. Navy Trophy Flag Collection of six hundred historic American and captured flags features the "Don't Give Up the Ship" flag flown at the Battle of Lake Erie and banners that have been to the moon. "One Hundred Years and Forward" is a new permanent exhibit on the role of the U.S. Navy and Naval Academy in the 20th century.

Historic Ship Nautilus and Submarine Force Museum
Naval Submarine Base New London
Groton, CT 06349-5571
Voice: 860-694-3174; 800-343-0079
Web site:

Hours: May 15-Oct. 31, daily 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; except Tues., 1:00-5:00 p.m.; Nov. 1-May 14, 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. daily; closed Tuesdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. Closed for maintenance first full week of May and last full week of Oct. Free admission, wheelchair accessible, wheelchairs available, Nautilus video tour, museum store, picnic area on the grounds.

USS Nautilus (SSN 571), the world's first nuclear powered submarine, is Connecticut's State Ship and a National Historic Landmark. It was the first ship to reach the North Pole and the first submarine to journey "20,000 leagues under the sea." Decommissioned in 1980, Nautilus was converted to a floating museum and, with the Submarine Force Museum, opened to the public in 1986. Together they trace the development of the "silent service" from the Bushnell Turtle used in the Revolutionary War to the modern Los Angeles, Ohio, and Seawolf submarine classes. Visitors walking through the attack center of a World War II submarine hear the sounds of battle beneath the waves. They may look through three operating periscopes and on occasion see the Navy's latest submarines going by on the Thames River. Two mini-theaters show films of submarines past and present, and an interactive computer display explains how a submarine operates.

As the Navy's official submarine museum, it is the primary repository for artifacts and documents relating to the history and development of the U.S. Submarine Force. More than 15,000 artifacts, 20,000 documents, and 25,000 photographs contribute to the training and indoctrination of submariners and remind both the veteran and the new recruit of their mutual heritage. The museum's 5,000-volume reference and research library is a world-renowned collection documenting the history of submarines and is open to researchers.

Patuxent River Naval Air Museum
Naval Air Station
Route 235 and Shangri-La Drive
Patuxent River, MD 20670-5304
Voice: 301-863-7418
Web site:

Hours: Tues.-Sat., 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; Sun. 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Free admission and parking, wheelchair accessible, museum store.

The Patuxent River Naval Air Museum, founded in 1978, is dedicated to telling the extraordinary story of United States naval aviation research, development, test and evaluation since 1911, particularly the last fifty years.

Outside exhibits display some seventeen naval aircraft of recently tested vintage, such as the F/A-18 Hornet, the F-14 Tomcat, the Sea Stallion helicopter, and the Sea Cobra. Original wind tunnel models, the portable one-man helicopter, various engines, and an F-4 cockpit are among the fascinating artifacts embellishing the museum's interior. A large collection of models, photographs, and records further documents the history of aviation research, development, test and evaluation in the Navy.

Hampton Roads Naval Museum
One Waterside Drive, Ste. 248
Norfolk, VA 23510-1607
Voice: 757-444-8971; staff assistance 757-322-2987
Web site:

Hours: Tues.-Sat., 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; Sun., 12:00­5:00 p.m.; closed Mon.; extended summer hours daily 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas. Located on the second floor of Nauticus, the National Maritime Center on Norfolk's waterfront. Free admission, wheelchair accessible, public parking garages nearby.

Hampton Roads Naval Museum introduces visitors to more than two centuries of naval activity in and around the great harbor of Hampton Roads, Virginia. A tour begins with the Battle off the Capes in 1781, a naval engagement that made America's victory at Yorktown possible. An impressive collection of ship models and retrieved underwater artifacts advance the story through the Civil War and the battle of the ironclads Monitor and Virginia. Exhibits continuing into the 20th century feature the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II and conclude with exhibits of ships and sailors operating out of Norfolk with the Atlantic Fleet.

The museum provides historical interpretation for and day-to-day operations of battleship Wisconsin (formerly BB 64), one of the famous Iowa-class ships. This veteran of World War II, Korea, and the Gulf War remains part of the U.S. Navy's Inactive Fleet in a reserve status. Visitors may board Wisconsin from the second floor of Nauticus, through the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, and tour the ship's weather decks.

The museum offers guided tours, interpretive docents in period costumes, lecture series, interpreter vignettes, and special shipbuilding and knot-tying demonstrations. Visits to the research library may be scheduled by appointment.

U.S. Navy Supply Corps Museum
U.S. Navy Supply Corps School
1425 Prince Avenue
Athens, GA 30606-2205
Voice: 706-354-7349; DSN 354-7349
Web site:

Hours: Mon.-Fri., 9:00 a.m.-5:15 p.m.; closed weekends and national holidays. Free admission and parking, garden with gazebo. Archives collection available for research on request.

The U.S. Navy Supply Corps Museum is housed in the c.1910 Carnegie Library building in the center of the campus of the U.S. Navy Supply Corps School. The school occupies the former State Normal School/Georgia State Teachers College. The museum building, which opened to the public in June 1974, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Supply Corps School is dedicated to providing the Navy with professionally trained business managers capable of overseeing the large and complex system that distributes supplies and materials throughout the world. The Supply Corps Museum stands as a tribute to these men and women of the Navy in recognition of their unheralded service to the nation. Exhibits trace the Supply Corps' growth and development, explain its many and varied functions in supplying today's Navy, and commemorate noteworthy individuals associated with the corps. Displays include models of namesake ships USS Supply, both past and present; a 12-foot model of USS Neptune, a WWI-era collier; artifacts recovered from USS Maine, sunk in Havana harbor by an explosion that precipitated the Spanish-American War; an 1841 purser's uniform; WWII galley gear and messing equipment; miscellaneous uniforms; disbursing materials; and personal memorabilia.

Researchers visiting the museum archives will find vintage manuals and cookbooks, photographs, newsletters, scrapbooks, command histories, curriculum materials, directories, and yearbooks.

National Museum of Naval Aviation
Naval Air Station, Pensacola, visitors use West Entrance
1750 Radford Boulevard Ste. C
Pensacola, FL 32508-5402
Voice: 850-452-3604; 1-800-327-5002 (Naval Aviation Museum Foundation)
Web site:

Hours: Daily, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day.

Free admission, parking, and bus tours, wheelchairs and strollers; museum store, Cubi Bar Café, motion-based simulator, IMAX Theater; wheelchair accessible with elevators.

This 297,000 square-foot museum, accredited by the American Association of Museums, is devoted exclusively to Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard aviation history. One of the world's largest air and space museums, it displays more than 120 aircraft inside and another 50 outside. Among them are a large collection of rare and one-of-a-kind aircraft; World War II, Korea and Vietnam combat veterans; world performance record holders; the first aircraft to fly across the Atlantic Ocean; and many others spanning the history of naval aviation from 1911 to the present.

The museum's small artifact collections are extensive and add a human dimension to the aircraft. Included are the personal mementoes of the crew of the NC-4 transatlantic flying boat, classic leather flight jackets and helmets, including those from the famed Black Sheep and Jolly Rogers squadrons, flight gear, and medals and decorations, including the Medal of Honor awarded to Rear Admiral William A. Moffett, the "Father of Naval Aviation."

The museum's Emil Buehler Naval Aviation Library holds over 13,000 volumes, including aircraft carrier cruise books from World War II to the modern era. The library's sizable collection of technical manuals covers aircraft, engines, and equipment. Manuscript collections include diaries and personal letters from World War I through Vietnam, official flag officer correspondence, and ship's newspapers.

Visitors learn about the naval aviators who served in the famed Flying Tigers of China, and in one expansive exhibit they stroll down Main Street of a World War II home front town, pass through a recruiting station, and experience wartime life at an island airfield. The wooden flight deck and carrier island replica of USS Cabot (CVL 28) recall the epic World War II naval battles in which the ship participated, including the "Great Marianas Turkey Shoot" (Battle of the Philippine Sea) and the Battle of Leyte Gulf. In addition, a newly opened gallery displays the works of many of the preeminent aviation artists of the past and present. The interactive Flight Adventure Deck incorporates the principles of flying.

The museum is located adjacent to Forrest Sherman Field on board historic Naval Air Station Pensacola, which opened as a navy yard in 1826. The air station is home base for the Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron and on most Tuesdays during the months April-October, visitors can view the squadron practice from bleachers located behind the museum.

Civil Engineer Corps/Seabee Museum
Naval Construction Battalion Center
1000 23rd Avenue
Port Hueneme, CA 93043-4301
Voice: 805-982-5165
Web site:

Hours: Guided tours: Wed., 10:00-11:00 a.m.; 1:00-2:00 p.m.; Fri. 1:00-2:00 p.m. Free admission and parking, wheelchair accessible, museum store. The public must register for tours by calling the museum. Please check the CEC/Seabee Museum access policy before scheduling a tour. DOD ID holders: Tues.-Sat. 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.; closed federal holidays, Easter Sunday, and the week between Christmas and New Year's Day.

The CEC Seabee Museum, founded in 1947, commemorates the history and worldwide achievements of the Naval Construction Force (Seabees) and the Navy's Civil Engineer Corps (CEC). This museum features not only military weapons, uniforms, and personal items but also handicrafts, models, and inventions by Seabee and CEC officers. Dioramas, complemented by a historical time line, portray some of the Seabees more important construction projects. The Seabees were established in 1942 to build shore facilities in combat areas for the Navy and Marine Corps. At a cost of billions of dollars and numerous casualties, they constructed more than 400 advance bases in war zones, providing logistical support for troops at the front during World War II. Since then, Seabee construction services have supported American fighting troops in every significant conflict of the cold war, in Bosnia, in the Persian Gulf region, and in Iraq.

Heritage Park, adjacent to the museum, commemorates all Seabees killed in combat during World War II, the Vietnam War, and by acts of terror.

The Naval Facilities Engineering Command historian and archives are co-located in the museum.

Naval Undersea Museum
610 Dowell Street
Keyport, WA 98345-7610
Voice: 360-396-4148, ext. 220
Web site:

Hours: Jun.-Sep., daily 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.; Oct-May, daily 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., closed every Tuesday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day, and Easter. Free admission and parking, wheelchair accessible, museum store. Accredited by the American Association of Museums.

The Naval Undersea Museum combines naval history, undersea technology, and marine science to create an exciting and educational experience for visitors. More than 20,000 square feet of exhibits holds the largest collection of naval undersea history and science artifacts in the United States.

Exhibits interpret the ocean environment, the development of undersea weapons technology, U.S. submarines, and Navy diving and salvage. Artifacts include U.S. torpedoes from the Whitehead and Howell designs to the modern Mk 48 and Mk 50 weapons, a Confederate mine, torpedo tubes from USS Tecumseh (SSBN 628), and a simulated control room incorporating major equipment from USS Greenling (SSN 614). Numerous video, audio, and hands-on interactive exhibits enhance the visitor's experience.

Deep-submergence vessels Trieste II and Deep Quest are on display outside the museum, along with the 55-ton sail from nuclear fast attack submarine USS Sturgeon (SSN 637).

The museum's research library contains more than 6,500 volumes that support the exhibits and provide extensive information on undersea history, science, and operations. It also holds a complete set of WWII submarine war patrol reports and more than 115 interviews from the U.S. Naval Institute's oral history collection.

U.S. Naval Museum of Armament and Technology
Naval Air Weapons Station
Pearl Harbor Drive
China Lake, CA 93555
Voice: 760-377-0056
Web site:

Hours: Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Free admission and parking, wheelchair accessible, museum store.

The U.S. Naval Museum of Armament and Technology, recognized in May 2000 by the Secretary of the Navy, is the newest Navy museum. The museum displays technology and weaponry spanning almost six decades of naval history. A timeline traces the development of China Lake's several weapons systems. From the Bat--the world's first operational homing missile used against enemy targets in the final months of World War II, with its vacuum tube technology visible through an acrylic plate--to the modern weapons used today. Missiles, free-fall weapons, and air-to-surface weapons impose themselves on the museum's cavernous structure. Visitors will recognize the major weapons that made news across the nation: the Lunar Soft Landing Vehicle, whose technology was successfully demonstrated at China Lake; submarine- and ship-launched versions of the Tomahawk missile; Harpoon, SLAMER, High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM), Shrike, Maverick, FAE-Fuel air explosive weapon, the TV-guided Walleye, GBU-24, Condor, and the latest air-to-surface weapons--the Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) and Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM).

On the 50th anniversary of the Sidewinder missile, the museum opened a comprehensive exhibit of the air-to-air missile that was conceived and developed at China Lake. Other missiles in the class like the AMRAAM, Sparrow, ACIMD, and Phoenix as well as the Rolling Air Frame (RAM) missile complete the indoor display.

Outside the museum, the Polaris missile, which China Lake helped develop, the Vertical Launched Airframe, and early nuclear weapon shapes share the landscape.

20 December 2007