U.S. Navy Museum
U.S. Navy Museum logo
National Museum of the United States Navy is located in Washington, D.C.
National Museum of the United States Navy
Location within Washington, D.C.
Established1961; 63 years ago (1961)
Location736 Sicard St SE, Washington, DC 20374
Coordinates38°52′24″N 76°59′43″W / 38.8733°N 76.9953°W / 38.8733; -76.9953
Type United States Navy
Public transit access      Navy Yard – Ballpark
WebsiteU.S. Navy Museum

The National Museum of the United States Navy, or U.S. Navy Museum for short, is the flagship museum of the United States Navy and is located in the former Breech Mechanism Shop of the old Naval Gun Factory on the grounds of the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., United States.

The U.S. Navy Museum is one of ten official Navy museums,[1] and is part of the Naval History & Heritage Command, the official history program of the United States Navy.


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.


Bridge of the USS Fletcher at the museum

The U.S. Navy Museum was established in 1961 and opened to the public in 1963. As one of 15 Navy museums throughout the country, it is the only one that presents an overview of U. S. naval history. 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.

Known for 40 years as the U.S. Navy flagship museum, The U.S. Navy Museum celebrates a legacy of educating the public. In the tradition of its predecessors on the Washington Navy Yard beginning in 1865, the current museum features a collection that dates from 1800. The museum's collection moved twice before Admiral Arleigh Burke established the current museum, Building 76, in 1963 to create an American naval history museum comparable to those in Europe. The U.S. Navy Museum continues to embody Burke's vision of sharing the Navy's history and traditions with the world.

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 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 Cortés (used during the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire), 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. 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. Hence, 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 U.S. Navy's history 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 94,000 individuals visit The U.S. Navy Museum annually. Admission to the museum and its programs is free. The museum is architecturally accessible.

Visiting the National Museum of the U.S. Navy

A view of the U.S. Navy Museum as seen from Willard Park. Periscopes from the submarine exhibit are visible to the left.

The National Museum of the United States Navy and the associated Cold War Gallery are open to the public. Both facilities closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 14, 2020, and reopened on June 1, 2021. Because the museum is on the grounds of an active military installation, visitors must either present valid government/military credentials, be accompanied by someone who has such credentials, or apply for a day pass at the on-site visitors' center. Upon entering the museum, visitors can see the fighting top from USS Constitution, as well as a statue of Boatswain's Mate Charles W. Riggin, made from melted dimes.

Willard Park

Located between the U.S. Navy Museum and the waterfront, Willard Park is named for Admiral Arthur L. Willard, Commandant of the Navy Yard from 1927 to 1930. Alongside the many iron guns on display are a screw from the battleship USS South Dakota (BB-57), a 6-inch gun salvaged from the battleship USS Maine,[2] a titanium pressure sphere from the Alvin undersea exploration vehicle, the Swift Boat PCF-1, and a 14-inch naval railway gun from the First World War.

Permanent exhibits

Dive! Dive! U.S. Navy Submarines

This large room is dedicated entirely to the history of American submarines. The room features a pair of working periscopes, targeting computers, and battle flags.

The American Revolution and the French Alliance

The U.S. Navy's violent beginning is documented near the museum's entrance with a video kiosk, weapons, and depictions of early American Navy heroes.

The Forgotten Wars of the Nineteenth Century

This exhibit features artifacts from the Quasi-War with France, the First Barbary War and the Second Barbary War, the War of 1812, and the Mexican–American War. The centerpiece of this exhibit is a replica of USS Constitution gun deck.

Civil War

The Civil War exhibit shows the sorts of warships and equipment used by sailors of the Union and Confederate fleets. Models of the legendary ironclads USS Monitor and CSS Virginia, the commerce raider CSS Alabama, and the USS Kearsarge (1861) are on display.

Spanish–American War

This exhibit tells the story of the loss of the battleship USS Maine (ACR-1), public outrage and the beginning of the United States as a global power. On display are several weapons, items from the home front, a model and diagram of the strange USS Vesuvius (1888), and the uniform of Admiral George Dewey.

Polar Exploration

The story of Admiral Richard Byrd's 1928 voyage to the South Pole is told through photographs and equipment from his and other subsequent voyages.


Vitally crucial throughout history, navigational techniques and various pieces of equipment are explained in a small exhibit on the history of navigation at sea. The room is filled with charts, chronometers, and meteorological equipment.

U.S. Navy in World War I

This exhibit detailing the U.S. Navy's brief involvement in the First World War explains the dangerous task of submarine-hunting and showcases models of warships of the period, a captured German flag, and footage of a U.S. Navy railway gun in action.

In Harm's Way, The Navy in World War II

The most extensive section of the museum, In Harm's Way, is divided into three sections.

Korea 1950–1953: The Navy in the Forgotten War

Uniforms and equipment, along with videos and other artifacts, bring the often-ignored Korean War into focus. Captured Soviet weapons, models of aircraft and warships, and a piece of the Inchon seawall are on display.

Other exhibits

The display of Trieste seen at the museum's Undersea Exploration exhibit.

The deep submergence vehicle Trieste is the highlight of the Undersea Exploration exhibit. A small exhibit on the Steel Navy (1883–1909) is in the north end, as well as on the Battle of Trafalgar, which features a short film on naval artillery based on the 2003 film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

In popular culture

The Navy Museum was featured in Ephemera, the Season 17 Episode 16 episode of the CBS TV series NCIS.[3][4]

Future plans

On October 13, 2020, then-United States Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite announced that a new National Museum of the United States Navy would be designed and built, with construction and installation tentatively slated for 2025. He stated that the facility will be located near the Washington Navy Yard, but outside its security perimeter so that visitors can enter without the need for credentials or a day pass.[5]

Other Navy museums

See also: Naval History and Heritage Command § U.S. Navy museums

There are nine other official Navy museums:[1]

The following museums are not listed on the list of "Official U.S. Naval Museums" in the footnote at the top of this section:

Navy memorials

See also: United States Navy Memorial and United States Navy Memorial § Other Navy memorials

See also

In general

Aircraft carrier museums

Battleship museums

Other museums


  1. ^ a b "Visit Our Museums". Naval History and Heritage Command. Retrieved 2017-04-13.. The U. S. Navy Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C., is not on this list of U.S. Navy museums.
  2. ^ Lockwood, Eric (August 8, 2016). "Remember the Maine! Historic Ship's Gun on Road to Conservation". Navy News Service. Naval History and Heritage Command. Retrieved February 8, 2019.
  3. ^ ""NCIS" Ephemera (TV Episode 2020)". IMDb.
  4. ^ "NCIS Season 17 Episode 16 Review: Ephemera". 18 February 2020.
  5. ^ "New National Museum of the U.S. Navy".
  6. ^ USS South Dakota is memorialized at Sioux Falls, S. Dak., where memorabilia and parts of the ship are displayed within an outline of the main deck. A screw from South Dakota is on display outside the U. S. Navy Museum.
U.S. Navy museums