Navy announces plans for new flagship museum in DC
By MICHAEL E. RUANE | The Washington Post | Published: October 13, 2020
The Navy announced Tuesday that it plans to build a new $450 million flagship museum, replacing the out-of-date facility that has been at the Washington Navy Yard for more than 50 years.
The new facility would replace the existing National Museum of the U.S. Navy, which has been in Building 76, a cavernous, old, former gun factory at the Navy Yard.
But because it is on an active installation with tight security, public access has been difficult.
It is currently closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The ideal site for the new … museum is in the vicinity of the … Washington Navy Yard, but the final location is not yet finalized,” the Navy said in a statement. The new site “will give the public unfettered access to U.S. Navy history and heritage.”
“To raise funds for the new museum, the Navy plans to partner with a registered 501(c) (3) organization that seeks to preserve, commemorate, and share the history of the U.S. Navy,” the service said.
The Naval History and Heritage Command at the Navy Yard will coordinate the building of the new museum. Groundbreaking is planned for 2023, with completion around 2025.
Once completed, the Navy’s museum will join the new National Museum of the U.S. Army, in Fort Belvoir, Va., which just announced that it will open on Veterans Day, and the National Museum of the Marine Corps, in Triangle, Va., which opened in 2006.
In making its announcement, the Navy displayed renderings of a sleek, new building that appeared to be on or adjacent to the historic yard on M Street SE. The museum will be “an advanced, campus design,” the Navy said.
The renderings show a design with a central, light-filled atrium.
“Naval History and Heritage Command’s mission of preserving and presenting an accurate history of the U.S. Navy to the American public is essential to honoring those who have served and are serving the Navy today,” said retired Rear Adm. Samuel Cox, director of the history command.
The current museum, which has a collection that dates to 1800, was established in 1961 and opened to the public in 1963.
The yard, itself, dates back to 1799. The first artifact collected was a French gun, cast in 1793 at Lyon and captured during the Quasi-War with France, from 1798 to 1801, the museum says on its website.
The museum also has a gun from Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes’ conquest of Mexico and the sloop Kearsarge’s sternpost with a shell embedded from its 1864 fight with the Confederate raider Alabama off the French coast.
The collection includes an array of exquisite ship models from different periods of naval history, as well as the deep-sea submersible Trieste and the khaki uniform of the World War II hero Fleet Adm. Chester W. Nimitz.
It also has a large Navy Corsair fighter suspended from the ceiling and a dented bell from the USS Merrimack — renamed the CSS Virginia by the Confederates — famous for its 1862 duel with the Monitor.
And it has an enlarged photo of the attack on Pearl Harbor taken from a Japanese plane.