The long anticipated opening of the Naval War College Museum is set for January 4, 2016. Closed for the last six months for renovations and a major update to the environmental management system, there will also be a new look Built in 1820, Founders Hall was never intended to house museum artifacts and art. Humidity during the summer months resulted in moisture and mold. Trying to correct one problem often led to another challenge to health and safety. Leaks, asbestos, and obsolete equipment had to be fixed or removed. But now, the journey is almost over as the contractors have met each challenge and kept to their timeline.
During the time the museum was closed, the staff has been busy preparing for the re-opening. Previous exhibits have been updated to better tell the story of the Navy in Narragansett Bay. This has entailed putting up new panels and arranging artifacts to offer a better understanding of the developmental timeline involved.
The temporary gallery will open with DEEP FREEZE! The Seabees in Antarctica, 1955-1956. Beginning in 1955, Operation Deep Freeze was the codename of a series of missions to Antarctica. The exhibit will feature twenty-eight works of art by two Navy artists as well as uniforms and other artifacts and memorabilia on loan from other naval museums. There is a strong connection between Narragansett Bay and Operation Deep Freeze as, following the return of the first mission, VX-6 was relocated to Naval Air Station Quonset Point and co-located with Naval Construction Battalion 200 which had the responsibility for the construction of any facilities required in Antarctica.
The most exciting piece that we will have on display once we open will be the “Life Mask” of Admiral Lord Nelson. Cast from Nelson’s face in 1798, it is one of only four known to exist. The year 1798 is significant for Nelson as he fights the Battle of the Nile where he suffers a near-fatal head wound. While recovering from his wound, he is entertained in Naples by Sir William and Lady Hamilton. Additionally, in that year, he is created Baron of the Nile and Burnham Thorpe. The “Life Mask” was made during this time as a way for a painter to have a “snapshot” of the features of his subject.
So, all in all, we have a lot to show you when you visit the Naval War College Museum in January. For more information or to schedule group tours, please contact the museum at 841-4052/2101.
John W. Kennedy
Director of Education and Community Outreach