The Brooklyn Navy Yard’s new museum and visitor’s center is as much about the history of what was once the center of American shipbuilding as it is about its even-brighter future.
That much is evident from the moment you enter the sparkling new, environmentally pimped-out, $25-million visitor’s center on Flushing Avenue near the Cumberland gatehouse.
The roof collects rainwater. The heating system is geothermal. The construction materials were sustainably harvested. It’s as if the building itself is saying, “This is not some dusty attic.”
And the attention to the Navy Yard’s modern role as a business incubator is apparent even as its 210-year-old history is on display.
Just inside the front door, for example, hangs a 22,000-pound anchor from the USS Austin, a fitting symbol one of the last warships built in Brooklyn. Near that dead weight is a wind-powered light pole developed by current Navy Yard tenant Baldev Duggal — a modern invention that can provide illumination even when the city’s power grid is off-line.
Other 21st-century, Yard-made products — such as military grade Kevlar vests, precision guided parachutes, packages of Sweet’N Low and lamp shades — are right alongside the artifacts from the area’s 400-year history as a naval center.
“The Yard itself has been a mystery to people,” said Brooklyn Navy Yard President and CEO Andrew Kimball. “We’re going to allow people in and they’re going to be able to experience this unique and fascinating story of history and modern reinvention.”
Of course, this is a history museum at its very heart, so the ship-building center dating back to President John Adams’s executive order in 1801 forms the core of the exhibits.
There are scale models of USS Ohio, the Yard’s first warship, and the USS Maine, whose sinking in Havana in 1898 precipitated the Spanish-American War.
Also on display is the steering wheel of the USS Bennington, which fought in the Pacific during WWII and was famed for having defeated the Japanese super-battleship Yamato.
On the civilian front, a whiskey jug from an illegal 1869 Vinegar Hill distillery sits in an exhibit that details the brothels and saloons that built up around the Navy Yard.
One of the coolest features is a naval telephone that offers oral histories from some of the millions of working men and women who toiled at the Yards. The stories are being collected into a huge database of stories and facts.
“It’s like genealogy.com meets Facebook,” said Kimball.
Brooklyn Navy Yard Center Building 92 [63 Flushing Ave. between Cumberland Street and Carlton Avenue in Clinton Hill, (718) 852-1441]. Free. Open Wednesday through Sunday.
©2011 Community News Group
By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:
You agree that you, and not BrooklynPaper.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to BrooklynPaper.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.