Set sail: Adventure awaits you at Kitsap’s Navy museums | Kitsap Week

Museum Director Bill Galvani displays a scale model of “Old Ironsides” at the War of 1812 exhibit at the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport.  - Johnny Walker / Kitsap Week
Museum Director Bill Galvani displays a scale model of “Old Ironsides” at the War of 1812 exhibit at the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport.
— image credit: Johnny Walker / Kitsap Week

With the third-largest concentration of naval forces in the United States, the Puget Sound has a deep Navy history spanning generations. To preserve and interpret that past for the benefit of the Navy and the public, Navy Museums northwest have opened two new exhibits in Bremerton and Keyport that commemorate the Navy's earliest fighting traditions during war, while also taking a look behind the scenes at what it takes to keep ships fit to keep the peace.

To commemorate the 200-year anniversary of the War of 1812 against the British Empire, matching exhibits at both the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport and Bremerton based Puget Sound Navy Museum chronicle the Navy's major activities during the war's first year. It was sometimes called the second revolutionary war because it was declared a mere 30 years after the first, and the young Navy earned national adoration through its aggressive ship on ship duels.

Renowned for its exploits during the war, a scale model of the heavy frigate USS Constitution adds depth to the Keyport exhibit — sure to inspire the imagination of sailors of all ages. The USS Constitution still serves today as the oldest commissioned Navy vessel afloat.

Interpretive panels speak to events on the anniversary year they occurred so exhibits will refresh annually for their scheduled duration through 2015.

In a separate exhibit installed at the Navy Museum in Bremerton, a look at industrial maintenance from behind the doors of "Shop 38" is highlighted. Shop 38 is the largest shop at the Puget Sound Navy Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility and has a heritage spanning a century of troubleshooting, repair, and maintenance of all types of Navy vessels, from submarines to aircraft carriers.

Both museum exhibits are free for admission.

Upon the completion of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Napoleon Bonaparte remarked, "This accession of territory affirms forever the power of the United States, and I have given England a maritime rival who sooner or later will humble her pride." Less than a decade later and 79 years before Navy Yard Puget Sound was established 1891, frigate warfare in the Atlantic firmly established the fledgling United States Navy as a winning force against British warships. USS Constitution was particularly crucial during the war and is credited for defeating five British warships and capturing several merchant vessels.

Named by President George Washington after the Constitution of the United States and later acclaimed as "Old Ironsides" after cannon shot was observed to bounce off its 21-inch hull, USS Constitution was one of six heavy frigates commissioned during the time period. Its quick victory over the frigate HMS Guerriere only two months into the war inspired the Navy's first fighting traditions that carry through to this day.

According to Museum Director Bill Galvani, the War of 1812 was an important turning point in how the United States Navy was perceived by the nation and the world.

"The war set the Navy's tradition of fighting and being victorious, was a big boost to national morale during a time when the army was struggling, and commenced the notion that it was important to have a navy in peacetime so we would be ready for wartime," Galvani said.

At the Navy Museum in Bremerton, Curator Danelle Feddes underscores the maintenance of ships for readiness at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility by weaving the present with the past.

“For more than a century, Shop 38 has consisted of highly skilled men and women,” Feddes said. “Their dedication to maintaining U.S. Navy ships during war and peace enables PSNS & IMF to accomplish work as a high-level maintenance and repair center.”

Interpretive panels explore the world of larger-than-life tools, equipment and the people who use them. The viewing experience offers a better understanding to the public and workers’ families of what they would not otherwise be able to see behind guarded gates.

Randy Tacey was an engineman second class in 1975 and worked for more than two decades as a shipyard employee in Shop 38. Today, Tacey and his son, Ryan, volunteer with the Navy Museum and helped prepare the Shop 38 exhibit. Tacey remembers how hard it was to talk about the work he did with family and friends.

"You can't get your family in to see this stuff," Tacey said. "This is a chance to see some of the sophistication. It is nice to be able to show off some of the work that has been done over the years."

The Naval Undersea Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed Tuesdays October-May). Admission and parking are free. For additional information, call (360) 396-4148 or visit the museum’s website at

The Puget Sound Navy Museum is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. (closed Tuesdays October-April). For additional information, call (360) 479-7447 or visit the museum's website at


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