Bremerton museum anticipates fleeting up

One of the oldest buildings in the area, Building 50 readies for its newest assignment:home to the Naval Museum. - Photo by James Mange
One of the oldest buildings in the area, Building 50 readies for its newest assignment:home to the Naval Museum.
— image credit: Photo by James Mange

Along with moving into a grand new space, Bremerton’s Naval Museum should soon be stepping into a whole new stratesphere. Discussions are underway in Washington D.C. to switch control of the museum from the non-profit group now in charge to the Department of the Navy. Rather than a hostile takeover, the move is welcomed by all.

“You won’t see any sad faces around here,” said Lyle Nelson, president of the Naval Memorial Museum of the Pacific, the group that runs the museum for the city. “The board had taken a position on this in 2003, that this was the best condition for the museum. I don’t think there’s a dissenting voice on the board.”

“I think it’ll be wonderful,” said Bill Galvani, director of the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, who would see the Bremerton museum added to his duties. “It’s a win-win situation for the museum, the Navy and for Bremerton.”

Galvani has already helped his staff prepare seven new exhibits, including major exhibits that change every six months or so.

Although the timing is up to the Secretary of the Navy and the U.S. Congress, the change in command could come before the museum reopens in its new space in Building 50, according to Andy DeMott, an aide in Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Belfair) Washington D.C. office. Relocating the historic building to its present location on the waterfront, renovating the facility to house the museum, and adding on a large meeting room has cost the city about $6 million. Work is nearly finished on the building, and the city hopes to have the museum moved and reopened by the beginning of September, in time for the Blackberry Festival.

“It’s very exciting to be a part of this,” said Charlene Zettl, museum director. “I really think it’s going to be a good working relationship.”

The Naval Memorial Museum of the Pacific looks to continue to work with the museum even after the change. “We will be a supporting arm and will be an advisory board,” Nelson said. “The non-profit will continue to run the gift shop. We can do fundraising and solicit grants that the Navy can’t.

“We hope the majority of our docents will move along with the museum,” Nelson added. “We currently have about 20 docents, and we’re going to need at least 40.”

Building 50 will be the fifth location in the museum’s 50 years. The museum opened in 1954 in the Craven Center on the shipyard. In 1967 it moved to the old ferry terminal and was under control of the Kitsap Historcal Museum. From 1986 to 2002 the museum was located where the new convention center is now, and moved to its current space on Pacific Avenue with the idea Building 50 would be ready in two years.

Despite the wait, spirits are high. “I don’t think there’s going to be anything like it in the nation,” Nelson said. “I think it’s a marvel that we’ve run this museum entirely with volunteers, but for the new facility, you need a professional staff.”

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