28 Oct 2020

Things We Take For Granted:

The Old Museum at the Navy Yard

I wrote last week about the new Navy museum scheduled to be opened in five years at the Navy Yard. While researching that piece, I was given the opportunity to walk through the museum, which gave me the chance to take some “before” pictures that we can compare to once the new building opens. Along the way, I also learned some history of the place as well as gaining insight into the plans for the new museum. Here’s a view of the museum today, and an indication of its major problem: How difficult it is to access. (RSP)
The museum today is in an old gun shop in the Navy Yard, and presents the history of the Navy in approximately chronological order from front to back. So, here at the entrance we have a Revolutionary-era mast, ship’s wheel and cannon. It’s also nicely lit from the skylights above. More on those later. (RSP)
While most of the exhibits were built between the early 60s and early 80s (one picture shows the space shuttle as the future of space travel) there are occasional new items, like these from the USS San Diego, which sank during WWI and was visited almost 100 years later.
This gun is one of those that will certainly make the trip to the new museum: It was one of those manufactured during WWI at the Navy Yard. Next to it is the director of the museum, Capt (ret) Chris Rentfrow. One of the most important missions of the new museum is to help reconnect the Navy Yard with the neighborhood surrounding it. Artifacts such as this, built by local workers, are an important part of this.
Here are the details on the barrel: The “WNY” in the upper right corner stands for Washington Navy Yard. The dates at the bottom indicate that the gun was in use until at least 1938.
Megan Krepp tries out the gun at the museum in this November 2016 picture. The aim in the new museum is to have a robust hands-on section, as the opportunity to actually climb onto the equipment was a strong draw for the museum. However, there will also be a quiet area, given that many who come to the museum are there to think back on the service that they, their friends or their family gave to the country. (KDRK)
A look to the front of the museum. The steel beams left and right are from when this was a gun factory. What can’t be seen are the railroad tracks that used to run through the building – the floor was built over them. While the reuse of the building for a museum adds to the historical flavor, the space itself does not lend itself to the modern vision of what a museum does.
This WWII era F4U-4 Corsair hangs over the largest section of the museum, dedicated to the Second World War. The plane was nicknamed “Big Hog” and flown by J. T. Blackburn. In the new museum, the various arms of the Navy: Air, surface, submarine, will each have space dedicated to them. (RSP)
This section of the WWII gallery, dedicated to D-Day, is missing an important artifact: A flag that flew over a landing craft on that fateful day. The flag, like most textiles in the museum, have had to be removed for conservation: Being exposed to the sunlight coming through the skylights has damaged them. The new museum will be built in such a way as to protect these fragile artifacts, and allow more of them to be displayed.
All the way in the back: a model of the submersible Alvin, which has visited some of the deepest parts of the ocean, including the Titanic and continues to be used today. Right next to it is its predecessor, the Trieste, which was built in 1953. These and other artifacts related to the Navy’s undersea exploration will also be a key component of the new museum.

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