Located in Keyport, Washington, the United States Naval Undersea Museum is one of 10 official naval museums operated by the Naval History and Heritage Command, offering a variety of exhibits related to Naval undersea history and science. The United States Naval Undersea Museum was formally established in July of 1979 by the United States Secretary of the Navy. In 1980, the Naval Undersea Museum Foundation nonprofit organization was formed for the purposes of constructing a permanent museum facility for the new museum.
Construction on a 68,000-square-foot facility began in 1985 and was officially completed in 1994, though museum exhibits were first opened to the public within a preview center in 1991. Following the 1994 completion of the museum’s Jack Murdock Auditorium, the museum was officially opened as a fully operational public facility. Until 1993, the museum operated under the supervision of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Keyport. In 2003, museum operations were transferred to the supervision of the Navy Region Northwest, and in 2006, all official Naval museums were placed under the authority of Washington, D.C.’s Naval History and Heritage Command.
Permanent Exhibits and Collections
Today, the Naval Undersea Museum is owned and operated by the Naval Undersea Museum Foundation nonprofit organization, under the supervision of the Naval History and Heritage Command. The museum received accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums in 2001 and presents the largest collection of naval undersea history and science artifacts of any museum in the United States. Over 39,000 artifacts are held within the museum’s collection, which are displayed within 18,000 square feet of exhibit space and held in an additional 19,000 square feet of archival collection space.
A variety of permanent exhibits are showcased at the museum, focusing on aspects of naval history, technology, and marine science. An Ocean Environment exhibit uses hands-on activities to teach visitors about ocean physics concepts such as buoyancy, heat transfer, salinity, density, and pressure, while a Torpedo Technology exhibit chronicles the development of major United States naval weapons such as Howell, Whitehead, MK 48 ADCAP, and MK 50 torpedos. Mine Warfare is examined in an exhibit, which traces the technology’s development and implementation from the Revolutionary War through the present day. Ballistic missile submarines are the focus of the Preserving Peace: The Navy’s Strategic Deterrence Program exhibit, which details the technology’s beginnings during the Cold War and showcases a Trident I (C4) missile payload section. Saving Submariners: Submarine Rescue and Escape examines the history of submarine rescues in the 20th and 21st centuries, while a Greeling Control Room exhibit allows visitors to step inside a preserved submarine control room and explore submarine equipment and technologies.
The museum’s outdoor exhibit area displays a number of large artifacts, including the Mystic (DSRV 1) rapid-response submarine rescue vehicle, the Trieste II (DSV 1) deep submergence vehicle, the sail of the USS Sturgeon (SSN 637) Cold War-era fast attack submarine, and the end bell of the Sealab habitat. A variety of temporary rotating exhibits are also showcased within the museum, highlighting topics connected to naval history and marine science. An onsite research library is offered, holding more than 6,500 volumes on topics related to undersea history and operations, including a complete set of submarine war patrol reports from World War II and oral history interviews from the United States Naval Institute’s collection.
Ongoing Programs and Education
In addition to standard visitor admission, the Naval Undersea Museum offers guided group tours for groups of 15 participants or more, including curriculum-incorporated field trip opportunities for elementary and secondary school students. Groups requesting guided tours must schedule at least two weeks in advance of desired tour date. A variety of onsite educational programming is offered at the museum for students of all ages, including a weekly Summer STEAM Days program focusing on science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics concepts. During the fall, winter, and spring months, Science Saturdays events are hosted on the first Saturday of every month, offering hands-on activities for children and families. A STEM For Students workshop may be scheduled for school groups attending the museum, and a Showcasing STEM outreach program may be booked for community events and local classrooms.
Annual public special events at the museum include a Discover E Day science discovery event, held annually in February as part of National Engineers Week. The Keyport Fest in September is a community festival offering concerts, special exhibits, and STEM-focused activities for children and families. Navy Band Northwest concerts are presented monthly at the museum, featuring performances by brass bands, jazz combs, and woodwind trios. The museum also participates in the city’s annual Seafair festival.
1 Garnett Way, Keyport, WA 98345, Phone: 360-396-4148