Museum ships hanging out their shingles again. Others may hang it up

Sadly, as a side effect of the worldwide economic crisis sparked by the COVID 19 response and the extended shutdowns in some areas, it is estimated that one in eight museums currently closed will never reopen.

While not quite a descent into the Dark Ages just yet, that is still a big blow if you think about it. For instance, the Historic Naval Ships Association (HNSA) counts nearly 200 vessels in their “fleet,” which simple math would lead you to deduce that at least 16 will no longer be viable at the end of this crisis, a figure that in reality could be much higher as some museums have numerous ships.

For sure, with everyone sheltering in place, there are no visitors, the key to any museum’s survival. Ships located in states/countries with very strict lockdown seemingly extended forever are surely under the gun.

Last month the Mystic Seaport Museum closed and laid off 199 employees, with no date on the horizon to reopen. At the USS New Jersey (BB62) Museum, with the termination of visitors, and withheld funds from the State of New Jersey, ship managers are almost out of money to maintain the historic Iowa-class battlewagon, the only one that fought in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War.

Everett, Washington’s Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum, originally established by Paul Allen, announced, “The current global situation is making it difficult for us to serve our mission and we will spend the months ahead reassessing if, how, and when to reopen.”

How long can large, aging ships located in areas like New York City (USS Intrepid) and San Diego (USS Midway) survive if everything stays shut down in those areas with no expected relaxation of the lockdown rules in the near future?

With all that being said, many vessels have taken advantage of the past couple of months to restore compartments and areas that have long been neglected due to offering 364 days of yearly access to the public.

For instance, check out the USS Alabama/USS Drum‘s social media pages which have detailed an extensive before-and-after restoration of several areas of both the battleship and submarine. They even removed the 30+ planes from the Aircraft Pavilion for deep scrubbing.

USS Alabama’s recently restored sickbay

The Alabama Battleship Memorial Park will open to the public on Saturday morning, May 23, at 8:00 a.m., with new social distancing and hygiene standards in place. The Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum, home of the USS Razorback (SS-394), opened on May 22. 

The South Carolina Military Museum in Columbia is reopening June 1. Likewise, the USS North Carolina Museum is opening on Tuesday, and Patriot’s Point in South Carolina is reopening Friday.

Hopefully they are the first of many.

One comment

  • The USS Alabama and USS Drum are the best Museum ships that I have ever been on. It you are in LA (Lower Alabama) visiting them should be at the top of your list.

    Tim McCann
    USN Veteran
    USS America CV 66

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