The National Museum of the United States Navy is the flagship museum of the United States Navy located on the grounds of the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Navy Museum collects, preserves, displays, and interprets historic naval artifacts and artwork to inform, educate, and inspire naval personnel and the general public.

The U.S. Navy Museum was established in 1961 and opened to the public in 1963. Permanent and temporary exhibitions commemorate the Navy's wartime heroes and battles as well as its peacetime contributions in exploration, diplomacy, space flight, navigation and humanitarian service.

The tradition of collecting naval artifacts in the United States began in the early 19th century under the command of Thomas Tingey, the first commandant of the Washington Navy Yard. The first artifact collected was a French gun, cast in 1793 at Lyons, captured during the Quasi-War with France, 1798-1801. From this modest beginning, the collection grew as the U.S. Navy fought in more battles and explored the high seas during the early years of the American republic.

As the Navy's collection of artifacts grew, so did the need for a space in which to display them. In 1865, the former Paint Shop opened as the Museum of Naval Relics and Weapons where the Dispensary is today. This museum was amongst America's earliest federal museums. Listed as one of Washington's most popular tourist attractions in Morrison's Strangers Guide to Washington, the collection impressed visitors with such artifacts as a gun from Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes's conquest of Mexico, and the sloop Kearsarge's original sternpost containing a shell she received during her fight with the Confederate raider Alabama off the French coast.

In 1913 the museum's artifacts were moved to Building 120, where the museum shared space with the Seaman Gunner's Quarters and the Recruiting Office. This site is now a parking lot west of the Washington Navy Yard. The building was demolished in 1927, which left the Navy's collection of artifacts in storage for eight years. In April 1935, the third museum opened in building 40, at the north end of the Breech Mechanism Shop constructed between 1887 and 1899. When World War II ended the yard officially changed its name to the Naval Gun Factory, so the museum became the Naval Gun Factory Museum. After gun production ceased, Admiral Burke obtained the entire building in 1961 to house a new, and more complete collection of artifacts.

Today The U.S. Navy Museum is the only naval museum to chronicle the history of the U.S. Navy from its creation to the present. Artifacts like USS Constitution's fighting top, the world's deepest diving submersible, Trieste, and the khaki uniform of former Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz make The Navy Museum's collection second to none.

Close to 400,000 individuals visit The U.S. Navy Museum annually. Admission to the museum and its programs is free.

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Founded: 1961
Category: Museums in United States

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User Reviews

Eric Manuel (2 years ago)
A very informative museum about all of U.S. naval history. Wouldn't bring young kids, but great for anyone willing to read about our complete naval history.
Chris Parker (2 years ago)
Wow... what an incredible assortment of Navy history spanning the breadth of the Navy's rich history. Full of surprises at every turn.
J B (2 years ago)
Great for a quick stop. Small museum with good displays appropriate for all ages. Surrounded by restaraunts so makes a good place to stop before or after lunch.
Larry Olsen (2 years ago)
The historical artifacts alone are worth going to see! Add to that the exhibits, many with real newsreel footage from WW2 and after, and the Museum is one outstanding learning experience! It's like stepping back in time to see how the Navy evoved from its humble 6 frigate beginnings!
Seth Freedman (2 years ago)
My wife and I went down to DC to attend her cousin's wedding. We had such a great time at the Navy Yard. So many cool things to see. There is a lot of history here. I wanted to visit the Navy art gallery they have here but we didn't have the time. There's always next time. Just a side note you do need security clearance to get into this area. We plan on making a trip down for family vacation.
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