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NHHC Debuts New Naval History and Research Center

08 August 2022

From Chief Petty Officer Torrey Lee, Naval History and Heritage Command

WASHINGTON NAVY YARD -- Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to showcase its newest conservation and preservation site August 8 at the Washington Navy Yard.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday, who attended the ground-breaking ceremony two years ago, spoke at the event for the new Naval History and Research Center (NHRC).

“History shows that the Navy that adapted better, learned faster and improved faster gained warfighting advantages over the long haul,” said Gilday. “Stories of the past help us heed the warnings of history while helping us to reflect on and sustain our legacy as the world’s premier maritime force.”

Gilday explained, “This building and the stories and artifacts within will preserve the experiences and lessons of the past; use the Navy’s legacy of valor and sacrifice to inspire current and future generations of Sailors; and let those who serve today know that their sacrifice will always be remembered, honored, and valued.”

The new site, made up of two former ordnance factories and warehouses, has now been refurbished into a single state-of-the-art, 2-floor structure that maintains the building's national historic district status.

“The Washington Navy Yard is significant to the early history of the U.S. Navy, the development of Washington, D.C., and the nation for its role in the manufacturing of ship equipment, advances in ordnance, and naval administration," said NHHC Director Sam Cox. "Not only will this building continue to be a historic site, but it will be dedicated to preserving all our future naval artifacts.”

NHHC and Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Washington began collaborations in 2018 to convert the two adjoining buildings. The NHRC will now house NHHC’s Navy Art Collection and Underwater Archeology Branch (UAB) of the Collection Management Division and Histories and Archives Division, including the Navy Library and Archives Branch.

These divisions have long served researchers and the public in their research and inquiries about naval history.

NHHC is entrusted to protect and present naval art, artifacts, and archeological collections to the public, and these renovations have modernized the command's artifact protection capabilities. The upgrades also comply with mandates to create a facility that can preserve artifacts and restore pieces for future generations.

The building complies with Navy Facilities Criteria (F.C.) 4-760-10N ("Navy Museums and Historic Resource Facilities"), and the archives now meet National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Directive 1571 for archival requirements for temperature, humidity, and daylight control.

“[UAB] is thrilled to be moving into the renovated spaces,” said Kate Morrand, Director, Archaeology and Conservation Laboratory. "The archaeological collections recovered from U.S. Navy sunken and terrestrial military crafts will benefit considerably from these improved facilities and an updated curation environment. These buildings will contribute to each branch's mission and long-term preservation of the Navy's unique and irreplaceable cultural resources.”

Since the early 1800s, the Washington Navy Yard has been a collection point for naval artifacts and trophies. In this effort, the two buildings were converted from munitions storage facilities where they will house artifacts for years to come.

“One building was built in the 1850s and the other in the late 1800s,” said Gregory Rismiller, NHHC's facilities program manager. “Although the buildings had renovations throughout the years, they were never built to store, preserve, or conserve our artifacts. So these artifacts were in danger of disintegrating.”

Building 46 was originally constructed in 1851-52 as a Copper Rolling Mill and was enlarged in 1899 to function as a Cartridge Case Factory. It is significant for its architectural qualities as a critical component of the integrated industrial system at the Navy Yard and its role in producing ordnance for the Naval Gun Factory. Building 67 was constructed from 1899 to 1917 as a series of additions to Building 46.

NHHC, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for preserving, analyzing, and disseminating U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy's unique and enduring contributions through our nation's history and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis, and interpretive services. NHHC comprises many activities, including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, 10 museums, the USS Constitution repair facility, and the historic ship Nautilus.

 

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