Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) held a groundbreaking ceremony Aug. 5, at the Washington Navy Yard to mark the start of the construction of a new Operational Archives and Repository Complex.
Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Gilday spoke at the ceremony and delivered the initial blow to the ceremonial drywall to commemorate the start of construction.
“This new project underscores the vital role the Naval History and Heritage Command serves in preserving our Navy’s institutional memory,” said Gilday. “With this archival complex we will continue to remember and present an accurate history of our Navy and tell the stories of those who have gone before us for generations to come.”
The Navy is renovating the buildings into a modern complex that will meet Navy standards for the protection and care of the Navy’s intellectual property and some of the Navy’s most at-risk collections. The current facilities were built in 1851 and were not constructed to house artifacts and many of them lack appropriate environmental controls.
“For several years, the Library and Archives have fought to protect Navy’s intellectual property and heritage from the ravages of heat, humidity, water leaks, and cold. Records and photographs stored in these areas were subject to mold and damage, requiring Navy to pay for mold remediation for records and photos, said Dr. Kristina Giannotta, assistant director of NHHC Histories and Archives Division.
“Because the new facility provides optimal environmental controls for preservation of archival materials-our Archival and Library staff can make sharing Navy’s intellectual property and supporting the fleet their primary focus, rather than protecting the materials from mold and environmental damage,” she added.
The new complex, once completed, will house the Navy’s Operational Archives, Department of the Navy Library, Rare Book Room, Navy Art Collection, and the Underwater Archeology Conservation Laboratory.
NHHC’s library preserves books, manuscripts and other priceless artifacts related to general maritime history and specific U.S. Navy events. Some items include the U.S. Navy’s first signal book, John Paul Jones’ calling card, and unpublished World War II administrative histories.
Additionally, the archives serve as the temporary repository for many of Navy’s records, which include CNO’s official records and all Navy Deck Logs and Command Operation Reports. NHHC permanently retains donated items, among which are several collections of CNO personal papers, and unofficial Navy photos.
The new facility also expands Underwater Archaeology Branch’s (UA) ability to advise the Department of the Navy on all matters related to historic preservation as it pertains to military ship and aircraft wreck sites. “As the organization responsible for the management, research, preservation, and interpretation of the U.S. Navy’s sunken military craft, this facility will only further enable our staff to accomplish our mission.” said UA Branch Head, Robert Neyland.
“This is the biggest infrastructure project that we’ve done to preserve Navy History, in the history of the Navy,” said NHHC Director, retired Rear Adm. Samuel Cox. “The fact the Navy is making this investment to preserve its history is a testament to the work of the staff and personnel at NHHC as we continue to provide value to overall Navy readiness and fulfill our moral obligation to remember the sacrifice of Sailors who have defended our nation.”
Construction of the facility is expected to be complete by 2022.
Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis, and dissemination of U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy’s unique and enduring contributions through our nation’s history, and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis, and interpretive services. NHHC is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, ten museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.