Naval Undersea Museum makes its own history

Naval Undersea Museum makes its own history

For 25 years, the U.S. Naval Undersea Museum in the Kitsap County community of Keyport has strived to connect veterans, sailors and the local community with the history, technology and operations of the undersea Navy.

The museum opened as a preview center in 1991 and proceeded to open as a fully operational museum in 1994.

“The undersea Navy is something the majority of people in our country are not familiar with,” said Olivia Wilson, operations manager for the museum (USNUM). “We want to provide the community with a basic understanding of what the Navy does undersea through exhibits and educational opportunities, free of charge.”

Some of the museum’s biggest attractions include the acquisition of the attack submarine USS Sturgeon’s sail, located in front of the museum, and the Greenling control room that was constructed with real equipment from the Cold War-era fast attack submarine USS Greenling.

“We’re very proud of all of the artifacts,” said Wilson. “It’s a great way to show our visitors the history of the undersea Navy. It’s been a long road, but we’re continuing to grow and bring in new exhibits and programs. We’re trying to keep moving forward and improve on what we can provide for the community.”

The museum also offers hands-on learning opportunities for children in the local community through the museum’s educational programs.

“Over the life of the museum, we’ve grown our educational offerings to weekly and monthly science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs,” said Valerie Johnson, a USNUM educator.

Johnson said the museum has partnered with regional schools and community organizations to enhance K-12 experiences, both onsite with Navy STEM days and offsite with Camp Create. “We’ve expanded our outreach capabilities throughout Puget Sound and are serving roughly 10,000 learners a year,” she said.

Since 1999, the museum has been the venue for more than 7,000 retirements, changes of command, meetings, trainings, field trips and other programs.

“We’re more than just a museum,” said Wilson. “We provide an auditorium for local, state and federal entities to rent out for whatever events they have. We have about 20,000 people a year using our facility spaces.”

The museum hosted an event Aug. 10 to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

USNUM was made possible through “the determination” of a core group of founders to share the Navy’s “important undersea history,” said Lindy Dosher, museum director. “Establishing the museum was not easy, but after decades of work, their dream was realized.”

In the years since USNUM became a professional museum institution, it has been accredited by the American Alliance of Museums twice while managing a diverse collection of artifacts.

“We have had a great 25 years, and the staff and I look forward to seeing what more we can do in the next 25,” Dosher said.

The museum, housing an 18,000 square-feet exhibit hall, is one of the largest maritime museums on the West Coast and holds the country’s most comprehensive collection of undersea-related artifacts and documents from more than 150 years of naval undersea history and technology.

USNUM is one of 10 museums headed by the Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. More information about the command and USNUM is available and

Allen Lee, who wrote this article, is a mass communications specialist for Navy Public Affairs.