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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4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Eric Manuel (2 months 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 months 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 (3 months 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 (4 months 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 (4 months 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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Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.